The Messenger (mini review)

Finished The Messenger by Carol Lynch Williams. I received a copy for review. 

First, if it’s not too late, don’t read the synopsis for this. It contains a major spoiler. (Publishers, if we don’t learn something for literally over a hundred pages, don’t tell us ahead of time!)

The women in the Messenger family get a Gift on their fifteenth birthdays. For example, Evie’s aunt has a way with cooking that’s made her rich. Evie doesn’t know what hers will be but she’s excited…

This is a really hard book to review without discussing the gift and the other things relating to it. But suffice to say that this is a smart, fun-and-heartbreaking novel. It’s perfect for cool fall nights. 

Cruel Beautiful World

Finished Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt. I received a copy for review. 

It’s the late 1960s. The Vietnam War and the Manson murders are all over the news. Lucy and her older sister Charlotte live with Iris, an older relative who took them in after their parents died. And Lucy, who’s 16, is running off with her English teacher today. 

That’s all you should know going into this novel. 

Well, and this: it’s incredibly unexpected. Yes, some things you will see coming, but you still won’t see the way they occur, or the things that happen as a result. 

Cruel Beautiful World is absolutely stunning and yes, both cruel and beautiful. 

Don’t miss it. Recommended. 


Finished Wish by Barbara O’Connor. I received a copy for review. 

Eleven-year-old Charlie has just been sent to live with her aunt and uncle, who she barely knows. Her dad’s in jail and her mom won’t get out of bed. Her sister’s close to graduating so she gets to stay with her best friend but no, Charlie has to move to the middle of nowhere to stay with strangers. And she hates it…until she meets a stray dog who she names Wishbone. 

I loved this novel. It reminded me of The Great Gilly Hopkins and, more recently, One For the Murphys. It’s got so much heart and is also completely funny. 

I love Charlie and her aunt and uncle. I also love her new best friend Howard (and his family). Basically, this book is full of characters who will win your heart.

Highly recommended. 

What Light

Finished What Light by Jay Asher. I received a copy for review. This post originally ran in August. 

Sierra’s parents own a Christmas tree lot in another state which means that one month a year, they leave their hometown and head south to sell the trees. It’s always fun (she loves the trees and has a best friend there, too) but her main rule is no boys. You can guess what happens this year. 

I very much enjoyed this story although I think I would’ve liked it more if I had never read Thirteen Reasons Why. That book is one of those that never really lets you go. This book is sweet and fun and I love it but it’s not the same. 
Even so, this is more than just a simple love story. It’s about first love, of course, but it’s also about family and friends and redemption. And, obviously, it’s about Christmas. If you want a great holiday read, check this one out–but try not to compare it to Thirteen Reasons Why. 

Small Great Things

Finished Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I received a copy for review. This review was originally published in August. 
According to the author note in the back of the book, Jodi Picoult has been working on this book for 20 years. I’m sure that was frustrating but the end result was that this was released at the perfect time. This book is essential reading for this point in history. Small Great Things is the story of three people. Ruth is a nurse, and a great one. She works with newborn babies and loves her job. One day, though, a baby is born to white supremacist parents and they make it clear they don’t want a black nurse to care for or even touch their son. That’s gross but sure–until the baby has a medical emergency and Ruth is the only one there. She hesitates before helping and then gets charged with a crime for it. Her lawyer is a white woman named Kennedy. She is determined that race not be used in the defense. 
So obviously this is a novel about racism. We all recognize racism from someone like Turk (the white supremacist). But what we don’t always see is racism that’s more insidious. The racism that I’ve seen in Baltimore, where people express regret that Freddie Gray died in police custody and then, in literally the next breath, say, “But of course he was no saint…” 
The racism that leads people to eye groups of young black men suspiciously. The racism that leads to black children being labeled aggresssive even if they are doing the exact same thing that white children are doing. 
The racism we don’t recognize because it’s the racism we are all at least a little guilty of. 
Highly recommended. 

In Case You Missed It

Finished In Case You Missed It by Sarah Darer Littman. I received a copy for review. This review was originally posted in August. 

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Darer Littman and have been since I read Want to go Private? Her books are all incredibly timely/topical and this one is no exception. 
Sammy’s life is pretty typical: she’s busy with friends and school (AP tests, SATs, driving test–does her crush like her back?). It’s stressful but she’s handling it. And then her dad–the CEO for a bank–gets hacked. And, thanks to the cloud, so is she. And everything gets posted online…including her diary. 
I felt so awful for Sammy. Of course there’s a lot of fallout and a lot of humiliation (are you always nice about other people?). And her parents now know everything she’s done wrong. Which isn’t much, honestly; she’s a really good kid. But still, she’s not perfect. 
I feel like Sarah Darer Littman’s biggest strength is writing these incredibly flawed characters that the reader still cheers for. Sammy is the perfect example of this.  She’s not always a good person but there is a world of difference between Sammy at the beginning and Sammy at the end. 

Hungry Heart

Finished Hungry Heart by Jennifer Weiner. I received a copy for review. This review was originally posted in October. 

This is a book of essays and it is absolute perfection. 

I’ve wished for years now that we were friends and this really cements that. This is everything I wanted it to be and everything that it would be reasonable to expect. She discusses marriage and motherhood and dogs and The Bachelor and social media and, of course, weight and writing and…well, life. 
Everyone needs to read this. 
Highly recommended. 

This Adventure Ends

Finished This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills. I received a copy for review. 

I want to preface this by saying that if there were any justice in the world, Emma Mills would be one of those James Patterson-type authors who release a book every six weeks or something. Between First & Then and This Adventure Ends, she’s one of my favorite authors and I am actually heartbroken that I don’t know when I’ll get a new book of hers. 

Sloane and her family have just moved to Florida. She’s always been a loner but somehow she falls into this group of friends and it is PERFECT. I love everyone in this book. I love Sloane and her family; I love Gabe and Vera and Aubrey and Bree and Remy and I especially love Frank Sanger, who needs his own book NOW. 

I love everything ABOUT this book: friendships and fandom and personal growth and quests. 

This book is literal perfection. Five stars aren’t enough; a galaxy of stars aren’t enough. 

Highly recommended. 

A Patron Saint For Junior Bridesmaids

Finished A Patron Saint For Junior Bridesmaids by Shelley Tougas. I received a copy for review. 
Mary’s cousin Eden is getting married and she’s been named a junior bridesmaid! It’s exciting but also nervewracking. There isn’t a patron saint for junior bridesmaids, so how will she know the best way to help Eden?

This is such a sweet, fun story! I loved Mary and her (super crazy and super close) family. They’re also Catholic and Mary especially takes saints very seriously. My knowledge of Catholicism isn’t very good so I loved learning more about it. 

If you want a laugh-out-loud middlegrade, this is for you!

I also really want to read Shelley Tougas’ backlist now. 

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily (mini-review)

Finished The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. I received a copy for review. 

I’ve been in a bit of a dark mood lately (job search and accompanying setbacks) and I thought this might be just the thing to snap me out of it–who can resist Dash and Lily?

Well, like me, Lily is ALSO in a dark place. Her grandpa had a heart attack and is recovering but it’s a slow process. So now Dash (and his friends) are trying to get Lily back to herself. 

This is an incredibly sweet story and just what I needed. I skew more toward Dash (sarcastic and literary, those are my people) but I secretly wish I could be more like Lily. 

I dare you to read this and not smile.