Mini-Reviews: Advice/Memoirish Books

The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your LifeThe Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan
Published by Dutton

I picked up this book because I thought it might be similar to Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, a book I loved and that I was actually able to apply to my life. And it somewhat lived up to my expectation that the two would be similar – Rubin spent a year focusing on being happier, while Kaplan spent a year focusing on how choosing to be grateful can be a catalyst for happiness and peace in your life. I liked The Gratitude Diaries well enough – it was compelling, read rather quickly, and was a good mix of interesting and funny.

I wasn’t in love with this book, though. It was one of those that was good but, weeks after reading it, I’ve forgotten most of what Kaplan had to say. In general, I try to look on the positive side of things and not let bad situations ruin my days and I do try to be mindful of being grateful for what I have and acknowledging that (sometimes only to myself) on a regular basis. So I think I may not have been quite the target audience of this book since I was already kind of buying what Kaplan is selling before I even picked it up? Anyway – I liked The Gratitude Diaries but it wasn’t the most memorable or impactful book I’ve ever read.

100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love by Lisa Leake
Published by William Morrow Cookbooks

Lisa Leake, creator of the popular food blog 100 Days of Real Food, decided one day that what she had been feeding her family for years was mostly processed, unsustainable, and unhealthy, and she and her husband gave themselves the challenge of eating (and feeding their two young daughters) no highly processed or refined foods for 100 days. This book is half the story of how they managed to do it, what they learned, and how they have sustained this lifestyle food choice over time, and half a cookbook where she shares some of their favorite recipes as a family.

I have to admit that Leake’s story is pretty inspiring. I am not sure that I could manage to do this just cooking for myself, and she managed to get her entire family eating this way. The rationale behind why she made this choice, and what exactly constitutes “real” food in her mind made perfect sense to me and is a philosophy that I can see myself at least incorporating into my diet. I can’t say that I plan on overhauling my diet completely but it’s certainly a starting point to a more healthful lifestyle.

The cookbook section has a surprising amount of variety, as well as recipes for things that I wouldn’t automatically think would fit into the real food lifestyle. There were quite a few that I wanted to make, but I only ended up making one – vegetarian chili – before the book had to go back to the library. The chili was really good, very filling, although I admit I doctored the recipe just a bit by adding canned pumpkin (hey, it’s fall and I had pumpkin to use up!). I don’t think the pumpkin made too much of a difference except maybe for the texture – it was a little on the thinner, soupy side before I added it.

I’d definitely recommend the book for anyone considering a change in eating habits or just wanting to know more about the real food thing. You can also check out her blog if you want to get an idea of what Leake is all about.


Into the ForestInto the Forest by Jean Heglund
Published by Dial Press

This novel is about two teenage sisters, Nell and Eva, who are struggling to survive in their Northern California home as the world quietly collapses around them. They are 30 miles from the nearest town so as an overseas war and issues in the US government cause massive issues in society, they don’t notice much difference until suddenly their electricity goes out and there’s no gas to be found. As they rely on one another for everything, their bond is tested time and time again, and they both must figure out how to grow into women in this new world they are facing.

I liked the first third of this book a lot. I found it fascinating, and horrifyingly believable, how the world as these characters knew it slowly disintegrated without their really noticing it. I loved getting to know the two of them and how each played a different role in their family structure. But as the book went on, one sister just read all the time and the other danced all the time – it almost got boring to me. And there’s a point in the book where something happens between the two of them that I thought was completely unnecessary and actually took away from what I did like about the book. At that point, I kind of hated it. So, not a personal recommendation but I do like some of the ideas presented here and I’d be open to picking up another book by this author.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin OlympicsThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
Published by Viking

This is the story of the University of Washington’s crew team and their fight to win gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Daniel James Brown traces the history of Nazi Germany leading up to and just past 1936 alongside the story of how this incredible crew team was put together, including helping the reader get to know each of the eight men on the team as well as their coaches.

I really REALLY liked this one! I was impressed with how the author managed to tell such a compelling story about this sport that I knew nothing about beforehand – and frankly didn’t care about beforehand. I loved getting to know these men, their back stories and childhoods and learning what made them tick, what made them successful, and most importantly, why these specific eight men, as a team, had to be the guys in this Olympic-caliber boat. It was fascinating to me how this sport is such an incredible illustration of teamwork, how a crew team is more about the team itself than its individual members. Further, this was an incredibly fascinating look at Nazi Germany just before Hitler began showing the world his true colors. I don’t think I’ve read a book before that illustrates the build-up to World War Two from this angle and it was so interesting to me, I need to find more books that do this. The Boys in the Boat is super great and I think it’s an easy recommendation to make to almost anyone.

Lock In by John Scalzi

Lock In (Lock In, #1)Lock In by John Scalzi
Published by Tor Books

From the publisher:

Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent – and nearly five million souls in the United States alone – the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.

A quarter of a century later, in a world shaped by what’s now known as “Haden’s syndrome,” rookie FBI agent Chris Shane is paired with veteran agent Leslie Vann. The two of them are assigned what appears to be a Haden-related murder at the Watergate Hotel, with a suspect who is an “integrator” – someone who can let the locked in borrow their bodies for a time. If the Integrator was carrying a Haden client, then naming the suspect for the murder becomes that much more complicated.

But “complicated” doesn’t begin to describe it. As Shane and Vann began to unravel the threads of the murder, it becomes clear that the real mystery – and the real crime – is bigger than anyone could have imagined. The world of the locked in is changing, and with the change comes opportunities that the ambitious will seize at any cost. The investigation that began as a murder case takes Shane and Vann from the halls of corporate power to the virtual spaces of the locked in, and to the very heart of an emerging, surprising new human culture. It’s nothing you could have expected.

This was my first time reading a book by John Scalzi, and I’m excited to say that I quite enjoyed it! I’ll be looking for more books by him that are equally awesome, so if you can recommend one, please say so in the comments below. Now onto thoughts about Lock In!

The world that Scalzi created here was so intriguing to me. I think these kind of dystopian/futuristic novels are my favorite – ones where it’s entirely conceivable how the world got to where it is, the author gives a background on how and why things are the way they are, and the people in the story have mostly adapted to this new way of life. That’s exactly what we have here – this insane virus changed practically everything about the world these characters inhabit, yet things have basically returned to normal with a few changes. I couldn’t get enough of the details about the Hadens – how they adapted to their new bodies, how the world has changed to make room for them in everyday life, how they have relationships with Hadens and non-Hadens – all of it, I soaked up every single word.

Scalzi does something unique and extremely awesome with gender here. Not once in the entire book is it made clear whether Chris Shane is a man or woman, and the publisher actually put out two different versions of the audiobook – one narrated by a guy (Wil Wheaton) and the other by a girl (Amber Benson). I listened to the Wil Wheaton because I loved him narrating Ready Player One, so to my ears, Chris Shane was male. But I’m assuming if Amber Benson had narrated my book, Chris Shane would have been female to my ears. And I’m super wondering how I would have interpreted it if I’d read the print and made my own assumptions about Chris Shane’s gender. The point? Gender doesn’t matter! And I love this so much, and I want more books that showcase this in a creative way.

The characters in this book are great. Chris Shane is privileged and naive, and learns throughout the course of the book just how privileged and naive, which is a fun journey to watch. Shane’s partner, Vann, is damaged and dark, the kind of person who clearly needs and craves friendship and love but won’t allow herself to deserve it. But she’s also incredibly cunning, clever, and a damn good FBI agent who is a great teacher to Shane. I loved their partnership and their bantering back and forth as they got to know one another.

As far as the mystery itself goes, that was probably the weakest aspect of the book. It wasn’t a huge shocker who committed the murder and why, and I didn’t feel that the lead up to the big reveal was done with a ton of effort on Scalzi’s part. However, I totally didn’t care. I loved this world, the characters, the snappy dialogue, and Wheaton’s narration was the icing on the cake. I would have followed this story anywhere, so the mystery itself was just running alongside everything else that I was really loving about the book. Overall – I loved it!

Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer

Kane and Abel (Kane and Abel, #1)Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer
Published by St. Martin’s Paperbacks

From the publisher:

Born on the same day near the turn of the century on opposite sides of the world, both men are brought together by fate and the quest of a dream. These two men — ambitious, powerful, ruthless — are locked in a relentless struggle to build an empire, fuelled by their all-consuming hatred. Over 60 years and three generations, through war, marriage, fortune, and disaster, Kane and Abel battle for the success and triumph that only one man can have.

I chose to read this novel at the recommendation of one of my coworkers – it is his favorite book of all time, and when I have the opportunity to discuss books with non-online friends, I get excited. So even though Kane & Abel didn’t sound like my thing, I went for it. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the book a lot more than I was expecting to. It also provided for a new way for me to chat with this particular coworker – a person I didn’t even know was a reader before he recommended this book to me.

This book is more a case study on these two men and their individual lives and personalities than anything else. The reader is given an intimate look at both of them, from childhood up until both of their deaths. There are so many moments throughout each of their lives where it is clear that small decisions can have huge implications on a person’s future. Each of them had several fork in the road moments – times when had a different choice been made, so much might have turned out differently. It was interesting to me to read this aspect of the novel specifically, and relate it to my own life.

What was surprising to me about this novel is that it’s huge – almost 600 pages – yet it didn’t feel that way to me as I was reading it. There’s so much detail, so many events that happen throughout the book, that it just flows effortlessly and I never felt like I was bored or bogged down with these men and the minutiae of their lives. In fact, because I spent so much time with this novel, I find myself thinking about it often, even though it’s been quite a while since I finished it. For me, it was just one of those books that stick with you. And it made me want to read more chunksters!

While I enjoyed the experience of reading Kane & Abel quite a bit, it is far from a perfect book. Published in the 1970’s, it shows its age with the various stereotypes tossed throughout the book. Additionally, there is not one major female character of any significance. Kane and Abel’s wives would, I suppose, be the most prominent female characters but they serve merely as decoration to the men whose lives they orbit. And Archer does not treat his female characters with much respect as a whole. That was by far my biggest complaint about the book and did make me roll my eyes in disgust more than once. My other complaint is that I’m not sure I ever fully bought the rivalry between the two men – the passionate hatred they had for one another came across clearly, sure, but I’m not sure I buy the reason for it. Could just be me, though.

While there were a few things about it I didn’t love, overall I was sucked into this huge book and really enjoyed the time I spent with it. I’m not sure I’ll read more of Archer’s books, but he’s got a ton, so if you’re familiar with his work – should I read more of him? And if so, where should I go next?

Mini-reviews – August reads

To say I am woefully behind on sharing with you what I’ve been reading is the understatement of the year. Here it is, November, and I haven’t told you anything about the last three books I read in AUGUST. I’m going to work on remedying that in the next few weeks, as I bombard you all with a bunch of mini-reviews. Here’s my thoughts on the final three books I read in August.

The People in the TreesThe People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara
Published by Doubleday

From the publisher:

In 1950, a young doctor called Norton Perina signs on with the anthropologist Paul Tallent for an expedition to the remote Micronesian island of Ivu’ivu in search of a rumored lost tribe. They succeed, finding not only that tribe but also a group of forest dwellers they dub “The Dreamers,” who turn out to be fantastically long-lived but progressively more senile. Perina suspects the source of their longevity is a hard-to-find turtle; unable to resist the possibility of eternal life, he kills one and smuggles some meat back to the States. He scientifically proves his thesis, earning worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize, but he soon discovers that its miraculous property comes at a terrible price. As things quickly spiral out of his control, his own demons take hold, with devastating personal consequences.


Kidding, that’s not all, but really it’s so darn fantastic, I loved it. There are not one, but TWO unreliable narrators, which is something I happen to love. So many awful things happen in this book – kidnapping and exploitation of native peoples, destruction of their homes and land, intense sexism that made me want to throw this sexist asshole (Norton Perina) off a cliff, and the worst thing in here is one I don’t even want to say because I think it’s a spoiler. But this is a book that is saying something, Yanagihara is the kind of writer I just adore, and all the awful things added up to an incredible book that I truly could not put down. It’s been quite some time since I read this one, but I am still thinking about it. LOVED.

He's GoneHe’s Gone by Deb Caletti
Published by Bantam

From the publisher:

The Sunday morning starts like any other, aside from the slight hangover. Dani Keller wakes up on her Seattle houseboat, a headache building behind her eyes from the wine she drank at a party the night before. But on this particular Sunday morning, she’s surprised to see that her husband, Ian, is not home. As the hours pass, Dani fills her day with small things. But still, Ian does not return. Irritation shifts to worry, worry slides almost imperceptibly into panic. And then, like a relentless blackness, the terrible realization hits Dani: He’s gone.

As the police work methodically through all the logical explanations—he’s hurt, he’s run off, he’s been killed—Dani searches frantically for a clue as to whether Ian is in fact dead or alive. And, slowly, she unpacks their relationship, holding each moment up to the light: from its intense, adulterous beginning, to the grandeur of their new love, to the difficulties of forever. She examines all the sins she can—and cannot—remember. As the days pass, Dani will plumb the depths of her conscience, turning over and revealing the darkest of her secrets in order to discover the hard truth—about herself, her husband, and their lives together.

I thought I was going to like this one a lot more than I did. What I enjoyed was the deep, introspective look into the marriage between Dani and Ian. What I didn’t enjoy was pretty much everything else. I found Dani somewhat annoying, I thought the book kind of dragged, and I just couldn’t care quite enough about Ian to hope he was alive. Is that awful? Part of the issue might have been that I listened to the audio, and it took me forever, so I think I just wanted the story to be over. In the end, I finished it so I can’t say it was terrible, but maybe okayish is where I fall on He’s Gone.

Eight Hundred GrapesEight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Published by Simon & Schuster
Review copy provided by the publisher

From the publisher:

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

I was expecting to love this one because, well, because wine, duh. I did enjoy it but not as much as the first of Laura Dave’s novels I read (The First Husband). I tend to appreciate books about a thirtyish woman dealing with something awful and fleeing home to cope, because I know that if something rocked my world in a bad way, I’d fly to Chicago immediately and seek comfort from my mom. So I am totally buying what Dave is selling here. Generally, I enjoyed the family dynamics at play here and Dave did a nice job keeping the people and relationships complex and staying away from stereotypes. I liked the characters and the story worked good. It was a nice read, not the best ever, but good enough and I definitely enjoyed my time spent with the book.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline JacobsThe Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Review copy provided by the publisher via SheReads

From the publisher:

Caroline Jacobs is a wimp, someone who specializes in the suffering of tiny indignities in silence. And the big ones, too. But when the twinset wearing president of the local Parent Teacher Organization steps out of line one too many times, Caroline musters the courage to assert herself. With a four-letter word, no less.

Caroline’s outburst has awakened something in her. Not just gumption, but a realization that the roots of her tirade can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, when her best friend very publicly betrayed her. So, with a little bit of bravery, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and tell off her childhood friend. She busts her daughter out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback . . . some twenty-five years later. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets rise to the surface, and Caroline finds she has to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is an enchanting novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives. It’s the story of a woman looking to fix her life through an act of bravery, and of a mother and daughter learning to understand one another. Deceptively simple and highly engaging, this latest novel by Matthew Dicks is perfect for those of us who were last to be picked at sports, and for everyone who is thrilled not to be in high school any more.

When I learned that Matthew Dicks, author of the much-beloved Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, had a new novel out, I knew I had to read it. There were a lot of things I enjoyed about The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs, and I feel that Dicks has a signature style of writing that I appreciate quite a bit, a kind of ease with his dialogue and tenderness with his characters that works for me.

Caroline isn’t the kind of character that readers will love right away. I felt sort of sorry for her, but it took me a bit to actually start to like her. A big part of me just didn’t understand her lack of ability to stand up for herself in any situation in her life, nor did I really understand how she could let one incident that happened in her childhood have such a dramatically negative impact on her, for years to come. It became something that she identified as a critical part of her personality, when in reality, she could have just let the whole thing dissolve in her mind. But she couldn’t let it go, and I had a hard time feeling empathy for that.

However, what makes Dicks such a great author is that he got me to come around to Caroline’s character. He got me to grow to really like her, to root for her, to want her to get the opportunity she so craved to right the wrongs of the past and just get on with her life. By the time the book ends, I not only liked Caroline but deeply cared about her and closed the book feeling like I truly had come to understand her personality.

The most critical part of the novel, for me, was the relationship between Caroline and her daughter, Polly. The two are complete opposite ends of the spectrum personality-wise and have an incredibly strained and difficult relationship. They just don’t get each other, which is something that’s extremely frustrating, disappointing, and heartbreaking to Caroline. When they take this trip together, they have some genuine, authentic conversations and get to know one another on an entirely new level. I loved reading as their relationship progressed from that of two people who were practically strangers to one of mutual respect, love, and on some level, friendship.

Although this novel is slim I felt that Matthew Dicks did a lot within its pages. His characters really grew on me, and I was super happy with how the book ended. The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is sweet, fun, funny, and kept me on my toes. I really liked it and highly recommend the novel!

Vacation Recommendation

So! Clearly I haven’t been around much these past two weeks. Mostly that’s because of being busy back at work, doing home stuff, you know the drill. But part of the reason I’ve been absent is because I took a real vacation! This past weekend, my best friends (from middle school – we’ve been friends for 20 years!) all got together in Long Island, New York for a girls’ weekend. I met one of my girlfriends on Thursday morning in New York City for a whirlwind touristy day (since neither of us had ever been there), we spent the night at my girlfriend’s apartment (she lives there), and the other three girls flew in Friday morning. Friday we drove to East Marion, on Long Island, and rented a house for the weekend.

There are many, MANY vineyards up there! I had no idea. We did three tours on Saturday and each place was better than the last. And the wine – amazing. The region specializes in whites (which I prefer), and we had some really delicious stuff. One Woman Wines was definitely our favorite, although we really enjoyed all three that we visited. Sunday we drove into Sag Harbor and enjoyed the cute downtown area, took tons of pics by the water, and had lunch. Evenings were spent just hanging out, playing games, cooking together, just having girl time. It was AMAZING. I don’t think I realized how stressed I had been until I had time to truly unwind and have no worries. Like, the most stressful moment of the entire weekend was figuring out how much to tip our limo driver. And the fall colors up there are breathtaking, we had perfect weather, it was just everything I could have wanted or needed. We all just keep saying how incredibly perfect the entire weekend was.

So I definitely recommend doing something like that for a relaxing vacation of your own! Even if you’re not into wine, the area is just beautiful, there are so many little towns to explore, the water is right there, and this time of year it was just gorgeous.

I’ll talk about books sometime soon, I promise!

On Losing Someone: A Personal Post

Last Wednesday, September 23rd, my eighty-seven-year-old grandmother passed away unexpectedly. If you remember, I shared earlier this year that my other grandmother, my dad’s mom, passed away in May after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. This time, there was no battle. There was no physical illness or mental issues – my Grandma Jeannie, who was in great health, my mom’s mom, a person who had been a huge influence throughout my entire life, someone I expected to have around for at least a few more years, suddenly was gone.

I was shocked and honestly didn’t know how to react. Of course, I flew home to Chicago as soon as I could to be with family. I had moments of grieving, moments of sobbing uncontrollably, but mostly I just tried to be strong for everyone else, especially my mom and aunt. I helped as much as I could with funeral arrangements, talked with family about the money/inheritance situation, helped figure out what bills needed to be paid and what accounts to cancel, started the process of cleaning out her home, all while feeling sort of numb to the whole thing. As I said, I had my moments of breaking down, but they were few and far between.

And now I’m back in Florida, back to reality and have a few days to reflect and regroup before starting work on Monday. And I just have to take a minute to share with all of you, my friends who have gotten to know me over the years, what an amazing woman my Grandma Jeannie was.

My grandma was a fiercely independent person. She bucked the trend of her era and didn’t get married right out of high school – she got a job and lived an exciting life as a single woman. She didn’t marry until just before thirty (ancient, at that time!), and had two daughters, my mom and aunt. When her daughters were 12 and 5, she courageously divorced her alcoholic husband and went back to work full-time to support her daughters on her own. She was extremely involved in her girls’ lives, they both have fond memories of their hard-working mom showing up for them in every possible sense of the word.

My grandma was the most fun, funny, involved, and loving grandparent I had. She was involved in every activity her seven grandchildren participated in, showing up at every single sporting event, dance recital, vocal performance, graduation, and anything else that was significant in our lives. Every single one of the seven of us thought we were her favorite – she made each of us feel special and unique, showering us with the kind of undivided and unconditional love and attention that can come only from a loving grandparent. I was so lucky to have her love for as many years as I did.

My grandma was truly the most kind person I’ve ever known. She loved everyone with a ferocity that is not seen in most people. She got to know strangers in elevators, formed extremely close bonds with friends at work, church, and other places, and took care of anyone who was in need of a helping hand, loving hug, shoulder to cry on, or just a kind listening ear. There were people in her life who didn’t do right by her all the time, yet she forgave them time and time again. She truly saw only the best in people and had the unique ability to forgive the bad while at the same time, not allowing someone to mistreat her twice.

Everything that is good in me came through her – either directly from her, or through my mom, also from her. When I feel myself reacting with unkindness or anger, I ask myself how she would respond. I remind myself that she taught me to respond to negativity with words of encouragement, to respond to hate with love, to be kind to others not because they deserve it, but because it’s just the right thing to do.

Truly, she was the most incredible person I’ve ever known. I am so very lucky to have had thirty-one years with her. I know she had a wonderful, long life, and to die at eighty-seven, still living independently and volunteering at church, with all of her wits about her and no physical pain, is just about the best possible way to go. I will miss her every day but I know she’s always going to be with me. The grief I feel for her loss is masked by the incredible impact she’s had on my life and the knowledge that I would not be half the woman I am today without her influence. Not everyone gets a perfect example of how to live a life full of love and joy – but I did.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my amazing Grandma Jeannie. I’ll be back in the next week or so with more bookish posts. :)

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

All the RageAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin

From the publisher:

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

This is a book about rape. It’s also a book about rape culture, victim-blaming and slut-shaming, because when the golden boy in town rapes the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, whose fault do you think the world says it is? Hint: not the person who actually did the raping. It’s a sad truth, but this is the world that we live in and this is the reality that many women face, which is why this is an important book and one that should be read by teens, parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. Basically everyone.

Romy’s pain is real and raw and not easy to read about. The emotions she’s dealing with, the guilt that she feels, for something that happened TO her, that has been put upon her by society and her school is almost unbearable at times for her – and for the reader. But this is what the world does to girls, to women with bright futures who make the “mistake” of having one too many drinks in the presence of a rapist (in Romy’s case – in other cases, it’s the “mistake” of simply being in the presence of a rapist at all). It’s not an easy read, nor should it be, especially if a person reads this book with the understanding that this is reality for all too many women and girls. But as I said, it’s an important one.

All the Rage packs an emotional punch but it’s worth the roller coaster ride of emotions to get to a more healing place by the end of the novel. I think this is a must-read and I believe Courtney Summers, more than almost any YA author I can think of, truly gets teenagers, especially those in crisis. She understands how bad it can get and writes with painful honesty about all types of issues. Just read it.

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Who Do You LoveWho Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
Published by Atria Books

From the publisher:

Rachel Blum and Andy Landis are eight years old when they meet late one night in an ER waiting room. Born with a congenital heart defect, Rachel is a veteran of hospitals, and she’s intrigued by the boy who shows up all alone with a broken arm. He tells her his name. She tells him a story. After Andy’s taken back to the emergency room and Rachel’s sent back to her bed, they think they’ll never see each other again.

Rachel, the beloved, popular, and protected daughter of two doting parents, grows up wanting for nothing in a fancy Florida suburb. Andy grows up poor in Philadelphia with a single mom and a rare talent that will let him become one of the best runners of his generation.

Over the course of three decades, through high school and college, marriages and divorces, from the pinnacles of victory and the heartbreak of defeat, Andy and Rachel will find each other again and again, until they are finally given a chance to decide whether love can surmount difference and distance and if they’ve been running toward each other all along.

I mentioned last week that I needed a book to sweep me up, to hold my interest from page one, something to break this streak I’ve been on of not being able to finish a book. Well, Who Do You Love turned out to be that exact book. This novel is not perfect, but it was perfect for what I needed, so I absolutely loved it. LOVED it.

What initially drew me into the story was how I saw myself in Rachel – I, too, was born with a congenital heart defect and spent a lot of time as a kid in the hospital. I have a scar on my chest from my own open-heart surgeries that matches the one Rachel describes in the book (although I’ve never been ashamed of mine or felt the need to cover it up). And once I got to know Andy, I saw myself in him as well – I, too, grew up with not much in the way of money or material possessions, I was the kid with the secondhand clothes, I was the kid who didn’t fit in with my more well-off classmates. I think the fact that I identified so strongly with both of the main characters really connected me to their story.

Besides my personal connections to both Rachel and Andy, I loved the two of them together. I loved their love story, fragmented and spaced out as it was. Theirs is a love that spanned years, and physical distance, and scandals, and all kinds of tension and challenges. Just when you think their story as a couple is over … just wait, because theirs is the kind of love that stands the test of time. Who doesn’t love to read about love like that?

Jennifer Weiner consistently writes relationships so well – between parents and children, romantic relationships, friendships, etc. She also creates these characters that are flawed but essentially good people who you’d want to have as friends in real life. All of her books are this way, and it’s something I’ve come to rely on her to provide when I pick up one of her books. I knew that this novel would be one I’d fly through, but to say that I loved it, especially when it’s been so hard for me to get into a book lately, well that’s an accomplishment. I couldn’t put this novel down and it was exactly what I needed at this exact moment in time. As I said, maybe not a perfect novel in every way, but perfect for me, for right now. So much love for Who Do You Love!


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