Monday, April 8, 2019

We Were Beautiful by Heather Hepler

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

It’s been a year since fifteen-year-old Mia Hopkins was in the car crash that killed her older sister and left her terribly scarred. The doctors tell her she was lucky to survive. Her therapist says it will take time to heal. The police reports claim there were trace amounts of alcohol in her bloodstream. But no matter how much she tries to reconstruct the events of that fateful night, Mia’s memory is spotty at best. She’s left with accusations, rumors, and guilt so powerful it could consume her.

As the rest of Mia’s family struggles with their own grief, Mia is sent to New York City to spend the summer with a grandmother she’s never met. All Mia wants to do is hide from the world, but instead she’s stuck with a summer job in the bustling kitchens of the café down the street. There she meets Fig—blue-haired, friendly, and vivacious—who takes Mia under her wing. As Mia gets to know Fig and her friends—including Cooper, the artistic boy who is always on Mia’s mind—she realizes that she’s not the only one with a painful past.

Over the summer, Mia begins to learn that redemption isn’t as impossible as she once thought, but her scars inside run deep and aren’t nearly so simple to heal … especially when Mia finally pieces together her memories of the night Rachel died.

From acclaimed author Heather Hepler comes We Were Beautiful, a poignant young adult novel about tragedy, forgiveness, and love. Perfect for fans of Robyn Schneider and Justina Chen.

my thoughts:

YA lit is where its at! I'm serious. This genre is just bursting with wonderful, creative, and thought-provoking stories - I am a HUGE fan!!  I was super excited to read Heather Hepler's latest novel, We Were Beautiful - it was chock full of family drama, loss, grief, love, and forgiveness.  Its truly a great read.

Mia and and her older sister were in a car crash. Mia's sister died and she was left with physical and emotional scars.  Its been a year since it happened and life is still filled with grief, guilt, and rumors.  Mia can't remember what happened and her therapist tells her it will take time to heal.  Her family is mired in sadness.  So, they send Mia to stay with her grandmother - a woman she has never even met. Yep, a stranger basically. However, Mia goes and soon finds herself working in a cafe.  She meets new people and winds up with a circle of friends.  Friends who show her that everyone hurts and has scars to show for it.  Mia finds herself slowly healing and finally able to piece together what happened that horrible night of the accident. 

I found this story to be emotional, fun, and engaging. The characters were the best - especially, Fig and her friends. And the message about grief was important - its personal and so different for everyone. You can't expect someone like Mia who has gone through so much in her young life to just move on so quickly - loss takes time to get through, especially when you are witness to it. I like that Mia was able to see outside herself and recognize that everyone has a story of hurt, loss, or pain.  It goes to show her that she is not alone and therefore, she doesn't have to endure her personal pain alone.  We Were Beautiful was truly a treat to read - I just loved the energy of Mia's friends (funny and full of life).  I definitely enjoyed this story and would happily recommend it to fans of Hepler and fans of YA lit. 

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: We Were Beautiful
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

JLC12 short story reviews

The JLC12 is coming to an end and whilst I didn't read as much Japanese Literature as I had hoped, I did read quite a bit. I wound up finishing off the challenge with a few short stories from my copy of The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories


Here are some quickie reviews of the ones I read:

Bee Honey by Banana Yoshimoto - A Japanese Woman is staying with a friend in Buenos Aires.  She has broken up with her husband, so her mood isn't exactly jubilant.  Her friend tells her about a procession of mothers that will be happening at 2pm and suggests her friend go and watch.  The mothers wear white scarves and march in front of the government building in town.  Their march is about the disappearance of the children - students who disappeared for protesting against the "Junta" who ran the country.  These mothers want information about their missing children and they know they won't get it, so they march every year to show their solidarity and determination.  The narrator watches and listens to an older woman tell her story to her.  And she thinks about her own mother - a woman who took care of her and doesn't always agree with her decisions, but who has always been there.  A mother through and through.  She thinks about a drink her mother makes for her when she has a cold, a drink that she thinks should be called 'honey lemon', but that her mother calls 'bee honey'.

Its a story that offers a slice of life, but doesn't really go anywhere.  Its purpose is to show how people go about their lives and when introduced to new history, culture, and customs they can be influenced/inspired to gain a clear perspective of their own life.  The narrator reflects on her marriage, but she also thinks about her own mother as she watches these mothers marching.  She thinks about the fact that moms are moms no matter where they are from - they are strong, caring, and determined.  She thinks about if she will become a mother and what type of mother she would be.  Yoshimoto writes a quiet and seemingly ordinary story, but the depth of its meaning and questions it sparks are what set it apart.  This is truly food for thought.  Another great story by Yoshimoto. 

The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema by Haruki Murakami - is a simple piece by Murakami.  Its purpose is to depict the feelings of a beloved song, The Girl from Ipanema.  Our narrator recalls how the song takes him back to his high school corridor.  He remembers the girl he would eat lunch with, the salads they would devour, and how this song just brings him back to that time.  And then he's in the present and he's at the beach when he sees the "Girl from Ipanema" and offers her a cold drink.  They sit and chat for a bit.  She shows him the metaphysical soles of her feet.  And then she's off, walking down the beach once more.  Its a simple sort of short story that makes you wonder about memory - how a song, smell, or sound can transport you back to another time and place.  Murakami takes a simple idea and uses it to explore the complex nature of memory. Love this!

Same as Always by Yūya Satō - The earthquake led to the power plant meltdown which led to radiation poisoning.  Which means that the land and water are contaminated.  People are moving abroad.  They are searching for food from elsewhere, because the local produce is chock full of toxins.  And yet, there is one mother who is using this disaster to her advantage.  The mother in this story has recently had a child and she is not a happy camper. Nope, motherhood is just not her bag.  She is trying to figure out a way to kill her baby.  She goes through the options, but rationalizes that they will all lead to her getting caught.  Until the meltdown.  Finally, a way out. The mother decides to feed her baby the contaminated food and water.  Yep, she decides that this is the way to get rid of her baby and not be caught.  So, she uses the contaminated water to cook all of the contaminated veggies/fruit in.  And she feeds her happy, laughing baby the contaminated food. She wonders how much poison is in her baby.  Life moves along as she continues feeding her baby poison.  One day, her mother-in-law comes to visit and announces that she is taking her daughter-in-law and grandchild to stay with her - far from these poisoned lands.  Her son is so happy, because he has been worrying about his wife and baby.  Our narrator is not so happy at first.  However, when she sees how the toxins have spread across the lands all over and around, she realizes that she can continue to work on killing her baby.  So she agrees to go.

What a story! Talk about dark and disturbing. Dystopian fiction at its finest. I found myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of the mother's rationale and the dark humor with which this situation is presented.  The author has provided a narrator who is glib about her daily chores and activities - primarily working on killing her baby.  Living in a land where there has been a tragic earthquake and then a nuclear meltdown is just too much for words, let alone rational thoughts.  However, humanity prevails - people help one another, look to survive, and plan to move forward.  This mother sees her life as being rather hellish and takes it out on her baby.  She uses this disaster to her benefit in such a dark and twisted manner it is beyond comprehension.  And therein lies the humor - the dark and twisted nature of humanity.  Yep, in dark times, people can get even darker in their mindsets.  And this mother takes the cake.  I absolutely LOVED this story!

What do you think? A pretty neat trio of shorts, eh? I really enjoyed them all. And, I'm looking forward to reading more shorts from my copy of The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories.

I just wanted to say thank you to Meredith from Dolce Bellezza for hosting her amazing JLC12  - it was truly such a treat to participate in.  I loved reading everyone's posts and getting to find new-to-me authors to fall in love with. Thank you, M!! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The Library of Lost and Found: A Novel by Phaedra Patrick

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

A librarian’s discovery of a mysterious book sparks the journey of a lifetime in the delightful new novel from the international bestselling author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people—though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her superhero-themed notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible.

All of that changes when a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her best friend—her grandmother Zelda—who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.

Filled with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and vivid characters, The Library of Lost and Found is a heartwarming and poignant tale of how one woman must take control of her destiny to write her own happy ending.

my thoughts:

A delightful and sweet story about family and finding one's self.  I absolutely LOVED Phaedra Patrick's latest novel, The Library of Lost and Found.  It was truly a treat to read!

Martha is a librarian who spends her time helping others - she has list of to-dos and checks them off when they are done. She's not really too fussed about helping herself, which leads her to feeling rather invisible.  Life is just Martha living, but not really thriving.  Until the day she receives a special package on her doorstep.  It contains a book of short stories Martha had written - stories that she used to tell her grandmother, Zelda.  Talk about being surprised!  Zelda was Martha's BFF and she passed away years ago.  So, how did Martha get this book? Who sent it and why? Plus, what about the dedication written by Zelda to Martha? How did that happen? And, does it mean her grandmother may still be alive?! Curious and determined to figure out the mystery behind the book, Martha sets out to find out what happened to Zelda and how this book came about.  Along the way, she not only finds out about her grandmother and family, but she also finds herself.

Patrick has written a terrific story that will hook you from the start. She's created a character who will frustrate you at first, but that you will cheer for the whole way through.  And the mystery keeps you reading and wanting more. This is definitely a fun and charming story that you won't want to miss out on. I would happily recommend The Library of Lost and Found to fans of Phaedra Patrick and anyone looking for their next great read!!

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: The Library of Lost and Found
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Quick Reviews...

This is the story of a group of high schoolers who plan a prank that goes horribly wrong. 20 years later they return home to attend the funeral of someone in their group.  Over the years, the prank has haunted them so much so that they are eeking out lives instead of living them.  And now, back together, they all must confront the truth of what actually happened in those woods all those years ago.                                                                                                                                                                                          A fun story to get caught up in. The suspense is limited since you pretty much know what's going to happen from the start, but its still an enjoyable read.  The writing is solid, the drama is Over The Top (which I love), and the characters are so unlikable (which I loved). In the end, it was a good read - something for a rainy day.

Jules has lost her job, boyfriend and apartment. She is sleeping on her bff's couch.  She is not happy.  Especially, since she keeps applying for jobs and not getting hired. Until, she stumbles upon an ad in the paper for a different sort of job - an apartment sitter. Jules goes on the interview convinced it can't be real - a job apartment sitting at the infamous luxury apartment building, The Bartholomew. A job that will pay twelve thousand dollars for three months of work!! Say what?! Talk about perfect timing. Jules is beyond thrilled - she will be living in the building of her dreams (the one she read about growing up) and she will be earning a huge chunk of cash at the same time - what more could she ask for? There are some weird rules that come with the job, but she doesn't mind - its the Bartholomew!! Plus, she really needs the money. So, she moves in.  And that is when the story picks up the pace - turns out the Bartholomew has a dark and creepy past/reputation.  Yep, people have died there - and I don't just mean one or two.  Turns out The Bartholomew is still living up to its reputation and Jules might have just made a HUGE mistake moving in. That is all I write about this story, because it is so much fun to read. You just have to check it out for yourself. It is a bit ridiculous, but there is just something about it that makes you keep reading. I found that I really enjoyed the story. Definitely check it out!

Loved this one! Found myself relating to so many things and definitely thinking about so many others. Such a great mix of personal stories and feminist ideologies. I absolutely appreciated the way this book highlights the fact that white feminists need to open their minds/ears to what women of color need/want with regards to feminism - being included/heard and so much more. She also writes about the #MeToo movement and her Time's Up organization.  Tamblyn also includes a story that sheds light on the lack of focus on women's healthcare - something that I never really thought about until now. And it is so crazy obvious how imbalanced it is, that I can't believe I never noticed before.  Talk about food for thought - this book is chock full of important hot topics.  Plus, Tamblyn's writing is terrific - its smart, honest, and direct.  She has found her voice and she is using it. I really loved this reading this book and enjoyed the time I spent with it. I would happily recommend it to everyone.

And there you have it, a few of my most recent reads. Now, I'm trying to figure out what to read next. I'm thinking this:


What do you think? What book are you reading next? Hope its a great one! Happy reading!!

Friday, March 22, 2019

My Friday Five...

1.  Books...I have gotten my reading mojo back - woo hoo! So, I was able to read these lovelies this week:



And I've also dipped into my copy of:


2.  TV shows.  Housewives! Okay, so on Beverly Hills it is still about the dog. OMG! I am getting tired of hearing about this dog drama. Who cares?! The dog is okay, so what does it matter if Dorit couldn't handle taking care of it. Why dwell on it?! And yet, I continue to watch. LOL!  As for NYC, well, Dorinda just wants to move forward with Lu, but Lu is not having it. She wants apologies galore and Dorinda is not having it. Oh, and Barbara keeps butting in, because she has nothing better to do. The whole thing is lame and they should all just get over it.  Of course, that's not going to happen, because next week shows D&L&B all arguing about the same thing. Ugh! What is with these shows lately - they all obsess over the same story line week after week. I will say that Ramona's comment about Dennis (Bethenny's deceased bf) not being that smart since he was a drug addict was a bit jarring.  She is always putting her foot in her mouth, but I didn't think she would go that far. You just know that is going to come up in the reunion. Aside from Housewives, I'm all over TWD - it is so good! Maybe they should have gotten rid of Rick a long time ago, because I am telling you that the show has improved so much without him. This past week had me thinking Children of the Corn and it was awesome. Can't wait for the next ep!

3.  Book lust...I want this book so much! I requested it on Edelweiss and can't wait for NetGally gets it so I can request it on there, too. I love Ruth Ware's books - they always suck me in and are so much fun to read. So, I am eagerly awaiting my copy of:


4.  Gym...yep, I'm back at the gym. I stopped going for awhile, but I've decided to start going again. It helps keep my brain focused and it just feels good. So, fingers and toes crossed I stick with it.

5.  Music...I've been listening to Toad the Wet Sprocket. Such a great band! Made me think of when I saw them in concert in college. They were at a festival and it was their last show. It was raining and they played such an amazing set - an unforgettable memory. And now, I hear they are back on tour. So, perhaps a revisit wouldn't be such a bad idea, eh? I bet they still give a great live show.

Hope you have a great weekend!! Happy reading!!