Lone Wolf

Lone Wolf
By Jodi Picoult
Published: 2012, Emily Bestler Books
Genre: Literature, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

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Cara
Seconds before our truck slams into a tree, I remember the first time I tried to save a life.
I was thirteen, and I’d just moved back in with my father. Or, more accurately, my clothes were once again hanging in my former bedroom, but I was living out of a backpack in a trailer on the north end of Redmond’s Trading Post & Dinosaur World.

Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. I have read almost every single one of her books. I love how she takes the hard stuff of life and meets them head on within the pages of a novel that represents some real life struggles. So when I saw this one on the shelves of Half Price Books, I realized that I hadn’t read it yet and knew that I needed it.

I felt that this one had quite a different feeling then her usual books. I liked the main story line, but the secondary story line was odd and I did not particularly care for it. This was not what I thought of as being one of her better books, but it could just be my own personal tastes.

The main story line is about the hard topic of letting your loved on stay on life support or deciding to end their life. It is entwined around the story of a broken family and how each of the mans’ children believes that their decision is the right one. The author delves into family relationships, a patient’s wishes, and what is defined as the value of a person’s life. It was a wonderful story that makes you think about your own family and their future decisions and plans in case of unexpected circumstances.

I ended up skimming the secondary story line and flipping past their pages and enjoyed the main story line. I do not know if it detracted from the story or not, but I still somewhat enjoyed the book; although it is most definitely not my favorite novel of hers to have read.

I used to believe everything my brother told me, because he was older and I figured he knew more about the world. But as it turns out, being a grown-up doesn’t mean you’re fearless.
It just means you fear different things.

Lone Wolf

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A Spool of Blue Thread

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel
By Anne Taylor
Published: 2016, Ballantine Books
Genre: Literature, Family Life

 

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Late one July evening in 1994, Red and Abby Whitshank had a phone call from their son Denny. They were getting ready for bed at the time.

I grabbed this book from Half Price Books because the cover intrigued me and the price was right. I had high hopes for it because it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and it was a Pulitzer Prize winner.

I thought this novel was very soap opera like. To me, it felt like the characters and the story had no depth, that it was very much just a surface skimming novel. As I continued through the pages, I kept waiting and hoping for the author to dig in just a bit more and flesh out the characters, but alas, it never occurred. I felt that the pages were full of fluff and not enough meat.

It was certainly not all bad. It had its good moments. If you’re looking for a very easy, beachy, soap opera type of book, then this is certainly it. I was looking for a Pulitzer Prize winning book and I felt that it did not live up to that.  The ending did not leave me satisfied either.

Perhaps someone else out there has read this novel and has a different perspective? Please share in the comments if you do.

…… When he reached Linnie’s side he took hold of her hand, and the four of them climbed the steps. They crossed the porch. He unlocked the door. They walked into the house. Their lives began.

A Spool of Blue Thread: A Novel

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salt to the sea

Salt to the Sea
By Ruta Sepetys
Published: 2017, Penguin Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literature, YA Fiction

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Joanna
Guilt is a hunter.
My conscience mocked me, picking fights like a petulant child.
It’s all your fault, the voice whispered.

The book begins with Joanna, but it twists and turns through the lives of three additonal individuals and how each of their journeys intersect with the others. This story takes place surrounding the greatest tragedy in maritime history. Each of the main characters is on a journey through World War II; a journey that will lead them to promises of safety and freedom aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Before I read this novel, I had no knowledge of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This made me a little bit sad and a tiny bit angry that the greatest tragedy in maritime history is not widely known in our history books. Something that was this devastating should be remembered and known.

I loved how Ruta Sepetys was able to tell each person’s story from their perspective while still weaving the history and tragedy of the war. There are some hard things within the pages, but my opinion is that if we don’t know about the struggles, tragedy, mistakes and “yuckiness” of the past, then how are we to learn from it? If you have a teen who is sensitive to such things, I would recommend that they do not read this book. If they are not sensitive, then every teen should read this book; it is written from a realistic point of view and does not gloss over the tough stuff that happened because of the war. it gives you a new perspective on the war.

The author did a fantastic job of tying all of the characters together as their paths finally crossed. I loved how they weaved in and out of each others lives, adding a piece to each journey. I also liked that there was closure on each of their stories; I was not left wondering what their fate was after the story was over. I thought this a wonderful piece of historical fiction.

I turned the lid and lifted the rose petal jam to my nose, savoring the scent. I raised my face to the sun. My war had been so long, my winters so cold. But I had finally made it home. And for the first time in a long time, I was not afraid.

Salt to the Sea

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the mother’s promise

The Mother’s Promise: A Novel
By Sally Hepworth
Published: 2018, St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Literature, Fiction, Family Life, Mental Health

When the doctor gave Alice Stanhope the news, she was thinking about Zoe. Was she all right? Was today a bad day? What was she doing? In fact, Alice was so swept up in thoughts of Zoe that when the doctor cleared his throat she startled.

Imagine you are a relatively young mom, with a teenager daughter who has severe social anxiety, no husband, a difficult past. Your daughter has been your whole life; because of her anxiety, you have not had an opportunity to make connections with other adults, you are alone in the world, besides your daughter.

Imagine that you are a teenage girl, suffering from severe anxiety for most of your life. Because of your anxiety, the only friend you really have in the world is you mom; the only one who understands you completely, the only one who accepts you despite how your anxiety affects her life, the only one you could ever rely on and count on. Now imagine that one person, your whole world, has been diagnosed with cancer.

They have been a family of two for a very long time. They have only ever had each other to rely on. Now they face the possibility of losing each other. Now, they have to open themselves up to help, to relationships with other people, in order to survive this crisis.

I cannot say enough good things about this book. Sally Hepworth beautifully writes about the intricacies of a mother/daughter relationship. She has a fantastic way of capturing the positive and negative aspects of understanding and coping with anxiety from both the daughter’s viewpoint as well as the mother’s perspective.

The author was able to include and develop so many facets of life into one book. Mothers and daughters, being a single mother, dealing with social anxiety, cancer, finding your place in the world, life and death. It was a wonderfully, bittersweet story that I enjoyed reading. I definitely recommend it.

The truth is, I’ll never be normal. I’ll never be able to stand in front of a group and ad-lib a speech. I’ll probably never walk down the street without worrying if people are looking at me, I probably won’t be able to talk to a boy without sweating and shaking. But I’ll try to do these things anyway. So I won’t be by myself anymore. So I’ll be out in the world . . . with you.

The Mother’s Promise: A Novel

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The Westing Game

The Westing Game
By Ellen Raskin 
Published: 2004, Dutton Children’s Books
Genre: Children’s Literature, Mystery

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The sun sets in the west (just about everyone knows that), but Sunset Towers faced east. Strange!
Sunset Towers faced east and had no towers. This glittery, glassy apartment house stood alone on the Lake Michigan shower, five stories high. Five empty stories high.
Then one day (it happened to e the Fourth of July), a most uncommon-looking delivery boy rode around town slipping letters under the doors of the chosen tenants-to-be. The letters were signed Barney Northrup.

And so the mystery begins……

I will be teaching a literature class next fall at my homeschool co-op for 6th-8th graders and I was in search of some “unknown” books to present; this book came as a recommendation to me by a couple of people, so I thought I would give it a read and see what I thought.

I was a little leery at first about a book that revolved around a murder mystery but I was pleasantly surprised with the plot. Ellen Raskin did a great job and kept everything in the book quite clean. Some of the mystery was predictable to me, as an adult, however I did think that the author kept us guessing in a few ways and did a fabulous job of dropping clues through the pages.

I enjoyed how the author wrote from each suspects perspective throughout the book so that we could delve into each of the characters and make our own conclusions. I loved the word puzzles and “games” throughout the book as well. I felt that she also did a great job of tying up all of the loose ends in the final chapters so that you weren’t left guessing or wondering about the characters or the story.

It was a fun mystery novel to read. I definitely recommend it and I have decided to use it in my literature class next year.

I gave it to my 14 year old son to read and see what he thought and he enjoyed the book as well. He said he would certainly recommend it to people and that I should use it for my class next year.

The Westing Game

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The Aviator’s Wife

The Aviator’s Wife: A Novel
By Melanie Benjamin
Published: 2013, Bantam Books
Genre: Biographical, Historical Fiction

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He is flying.
Is this how I will remember him? As I watch him lying vanquished, defeated by the one thing even he could not outmaneuver, I understand that I will have to choose my memories carefully now. There are simply too many.

I was so intrigued by this book that I happened to find that I had two copies of it on my bookshelf, so I decided that it was time to read it. I didn’t really know much about Charles Lindbergh except what was in the history books; he had been the first man to fly a plane solo over the Atlantic Ocean and that his baby had been kidnapped and murdered. I was curious to find out a little bit more about him, especially from his wife’s perspective and not just the public eye.

It was interesting to me that Anne Morrow Lindbergh had her own famous history that is not known and not recorded in the history books; overshadowed by her even more famous husband. Anne was the first American woman to obtain her glider pilot’s license. She also served as Charles’ copilot, navigator and radio operator on many of his flights; flights that broke records that may not have done so if Anne had not been up there with him. Anne was often overlooked, standing behind her husband who ate up the fame and the spotlight in front of her.

As we journey through the aviator wife’s life with her famous husband, we find out how strong, resilient, perseverant and loyal she was. She really was the backbone of her marriage and her husband. She stayed behind to take care of the children, while he continued to fly in the public eye as the amazing Charles Lindbergh. Anne could have easily exposed him for the person he truly was, but instead she protected the image of her husband. Anne Morrow Lindbergh was truly an amazing woman.

I know the book is historical fiction, but I think that Melanie Benjamin really did her research on this one and was able to get inside the mind and feelings of Anne quite well. I have a new understanding for the woman behind the famous pilot as well as Charles as well.

I will take my duties seriously, just as seriously as I once navigated as his crew. I will be the bridge between who Charles was, and who he was assumed to be. The keeper of the flame. The guardian of his reputation, for much of it deserves to be remembered. And it’s up to me, as the aviator’s wife who was once an ambassador’s daughter, to decide how much.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a fantastic historical novel, a more personal perspective on the Lindbergh family or a woman who happens to be the strength and protector of the husband in front of her.

 The Aviator’s Wife: A Novel

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the Undoing of Saint Silvanus

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus
By Beth Moore
Published: 2017, Tyndale House Publishers
Genre: Literature, Fiction

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Sergeant Cal DaCosta glanced at the digits on his dashboard as he threw the car into park. “Sheesh. Eighty-four degrees and barely daylight. That body’s going to be ripe.” Several patrol cars were already at the scene, zigzagged all over the pavement.

My book club decided that this month we were going to read Beth Moore’s first publication of a fiction book. I was not all that excited about this choice because I am not a fan of Beth Moore. However, there have been books chosen for book club that I would never have given a second glance had I not had to read them for book club, and I ended up enjoying them quite a bit. I went into this book dragging my feet, but determined to read it.

I will start off by saying, since this was a book from Beth Moore, I was expecting quite a bit. However, there is a huge difference between writing non-fiction and bible studies and trying to write a fictional mystery suspense book.

The book begins with a subplot and then moves forward with the actual basis of the novel. As I started reading through the book, I wondered what this subplot really had to do with the main story line. It somewhat fit within the book, and yet it just didn’t quite fit into the puzzle. I found the subplot pretty boring and unnecessary; and the manner in which it was written did not really fit within the pages of the novel.

As the author works us through the family history of Jillian, we meet a few characters along the way that influence how she moves forward. I quite enjoyed some of the secondary characters of the book, especially Adella, who added a bit of humor and spice to it all.

I thought the majority of the story line was somewhat predictable; more so then the usual mystery suspense novel. As I was reading through it, I had the feeling that I get when I am watching a “B” movie; the thoughts and the effort was there, but it just wasn’t quite working.

I was also disappointed in the spiritual aspect of the novel. Seeing that it was written by Beth Moore, I was expecting a beautiful spiritual journey that would lead Jillian through the mystery of her family’s past. It just wasn’t there. The spiritual journey was hardly there, we didn’t get to see how God worked through Jillian’s troubled past or how he healed her brokenness. It just sort of happened. I expected a lot more and was left dissatisfied with this aspect of the book.

I tried really hard not to have high expectations of this book, however, it IS Beth Moore and you cannot just go into reading one of her books without some sort of anticipation of greatness. If you are hoping for excellence, you will be greatly disappointed.

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This next section was added after my book club met and includes some thoughts and opinions of others on the book and how the discussion may have changed my perspective of the book. 

There were some mixed reviews between the ladies which caused quite a bit of quality discussion. Some of the ladies enjoyed the book, some thought it was just okay, while others didn’t particularly care for it.

The ladies decided that while the subplot didn’t completely fit in with the rest of the novel, it did give a history of the building and it did have a tiny minuscule of significance in the book. However, it was not a necessary part of the book.

For the most part, we all agreed that Adella was a favorite character, that much of the writing was very “southern” and “Beth Mooreish”.  Many also thought that there were a lot of unanswered questions and many characters and story lines that needed to have more added depth to them.

As far as the spiritual aspect, the fact that I was expecting more, there were a couple of other ladies that had the same feeling. However, one of the ladies made a good point; perhaps the author was writing a book that introduced Christ and a spiritual journey in an easy, not overly religious way so that she could reach the unreachable.

While there was not a consensus that this was a wonderful work of literature, what we could all agree on is that it was a wonderfully light-hearted, easy introduction to Jesus for someone who may be seeking or open to hearing about Him.

If you know someone looking for an easy read, that has a lightweight introduction to Jesus, then this is a great book to give them.

If you are interested in giving Beth Moore’s very first work of fiction a try, you can grab it using my link below. Who knows, seeing that it is her first, it may be worth some money in the future. 😉

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus

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Stone Fox

Stone Fox
By John Reynolds Gardiner
Illustrated by Greg Hargreaves
Published: 1980, Harper Collins
Genre: Children’s Literature

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One day Grandfather wouldn’t get out of bed. He just lay there and stared at he ceiling and looked sad.

Little Willy’s grandfather is ill which leaves 10 year old Willy and his dog, Searchlight, in charge of the farm. When the tax collector stops by and informs Willy that he needs to pay $500 in back taxes or they will lose the farm, he enters the local dogsled race. He needs to win the $500 cash prize to save the farm for his grandfather, but first he must beat Stone Fox, the local Native American who has never lost a race.
It is based on a Rocky Mountain Legend, told through the generations.

This was a read-aloud I did with my 8 year old son; he happens to be my only child who doesn’t particularly enjoy reading. Because of that, I try to find short books to read to him that have enough action to keep him engaged. Stone Fox seemed to fit the bill.

When we made it to the end of the book, his first response was “That was short! There’s no more to read?” So I consider it a win, since he was hoping there was more chapters to read. The book was engaging and told the story quickly and precisely enough to keep him enthralled.
You may want to peruse it yourself first; there are some sensitive topics in the book that may affect some children.

It kept my active, can’t-sit-still 8 year old wanting to read the next pages so we definitely recommend it to everyone.

Stone Fox

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Twist of Faith

Twist of Faith
By Ellen J. Green
Published: 2018, Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Crime

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The house was a mottled gray color that reminded me of dead fish. Scaly paint peeled from the weathered clapboards. Shutters that looked like they might have been black at one time were now streaked and speckled, hanging at odd angles on rusted hinges.

In Twist of Faith, we meet Ava; a young woman who thought she knew her history but realizes she has no idea where she came from after finding a picture in her deceased, adoptive mother’s belongings. After discovering the photo, Ava goes on a quest to figure out where she came from and what her adoptive family has been hiding from her all these years. On her journey to discover her own past, Ava finds out that her life and family is somehow connected to a series of murders.

Ava decides to enlist the help of her friend Joanne and a police officer who she has become acquainted with around the courthouse, Russell. With their help, she begins to unwind the story of 4 men connected to the same church, their mysterious deaths and how they are related to her adoptive family.

Ellen J. Green did a wonderful job of pulling you into the story. As you start reading through the chapters, you get drawn in because you just NEED to find out what a single random photo of an unknown house with the door open means to Ava’s life and how is her family connected. The author wrote a few well-placed clues into the story that makes you think you have it all figured out. But when you get to the end, you realize you had it all wrong the whole time. I thought it was going to be some cheesy book that the ending and protagonist were obvious, but it turns out I was wrong.

I thought this was a well written suspense thriller that kept me intrigued and quickly turning the pages to get to the eventful climax. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves a well written mystery that keeps you guessing until the very end.

 Twist of Faith

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The Nightingale

The Nightingale
By Kritsin Hannah
Published: 2017, St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literature

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If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are. Today’s young people want to know everything about everyone. They think talking about a problem will solve it. I come from a quieter generation. We understand the value of forgetting, the lure of reinvention.

I have read Kristin Hannah’s book, firefly lane, and I absolutely loved it. So I was excited to see this recent book of hers getting a lot of accolades. I really love historical fiction so I knew that I needed to read it.

I cannot even begin to imagine what life was like during the war in places like France; right there on the front lines . Hatred, heartache, death, loss, starvation; just trying to find the strength within to survive and keep your loved ones safe. It’s devastating to read about those times but also quite eye-opening about what our world and the people within it are capable of.

Kristin Hannah takes us through the story of the women of the war; the brave and courageous “soldiers” who are often not talked about nor recognized. The women were, in their own way, the backbone of the war. They were not on the front lines; they were left behind, with the enemy in their homes, taking whatever they wanted and leaving behind brokenness. But these women were certainly fighting in ways we would never have imagined they capable of.

In The Nightingale, we follow the stories of two sisters; one leaves and ends up on the “battlefield” and one fights the battles from within her own home. They each save and change many lives of those that had no hope. As we work our way through their stories, each sister discovers what they are capable in times of tragedy; they change, they grow, they mature and they find out what they are truly made of.

Kristin Hannah has a way with words that takes you right into the heart of these women. She is able to place your thoughts as if you are standing right next to each of these sisters; fighting, loving and surviving. She weaves a beautiful story of both present time and of historical times; we do not know the identity of survivor at the beginning of the story until almost the very end.

This novel is a phenomenal piece of work. I cannot say enough good things about it. I wish I could tell you more about this epic novel, but I want you to read it and experience it on your own.
I highly, highly recommend it to everyone. It will leave you with a bigger understanding of the war as well as the unnoticed women who fought with the enemy sitting right beside them.

She was crying for all of it at last—for the pain and the loss and fear and anger, for the war and what it had done to her and to all of them, for the knowledge of evil she could never shake, for the horror of where she’d been and what she’d done to survive.

The Nightingale

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