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Review: THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

Title: The Hate U Give 

Author: Angie Thomas 

Category: Fiction

Source: Borrowed from library 

Review by Candy

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One fateful night Starr Carter decides to attend a party in her black neighborhood. It’s something she knows her parents would never allow and something she has never done before. When gun shots ring out at the party, Starr flees with her childhood friend, Khalil. Blocks from the party, Khalil and Starr are pulled over by a white police officer. The traffic stop ends with Khalil dead and Starr as the only witness who can say for sure what happened. Starr knows she need a to step forward but she also knows what she has to say has the potential to destroy her neighborhood. Will Starr testify about what happened? Can her community survive this racially charged incident?

I rarely read YA books because as an adult in forties, the subject matters are rarely things I can relate to. I do make exceptions every once in a while and this book is one of those times. After seeing the buzz on Litsy about this book, I decided to give it a try. I am so glad I did because this is easily one of the best books I have read all year.

Thomas has given us a brutally honest look at race relations in our country. Her story telling looks at both sides of the story from both races. Through Starr we see her black community struggling with the aftermath of the shooting (one haunting image that has stayed with me: the description of tanks rolling through down her street as police try to stop the violence that has broken out) and the white view on the events via her friends as her affluent private school. Thomas’s unflinching presentation of the events during the traffic stop had me wiping away tears. Her descriptions of the protests that erupted had my heart racing as violence breaks out.

Thomas could not have created a better main character than Starr Carter. Starr straddles the two communities in her life and fluidly moves between both. As the story progresses, she realizes that that she has compromised who she is in order to fit in and be accepted at her private majority white school. Gradually, Starr finds her courage and her voice to stand up for her friend Khalil.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a fictional but all too real account of events that have happened in the U.S. Thomas doesn’t shrink from her subject matter and has written a heartbreaking novel of what it means to be a young black person growing up in America today. I encourage everyone, regardless of your political affiliation and what you think has happened in our country, to put aside those notions and read this book with an open mind.

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Review: THE KNITTING CIRCLE by Ann Hood

Title: The Knitting Circle 

Author: Ann Hood

Category: Women’s Fiction

Source: Borrowed from library 

Review by Candy

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Mary Baxter is devastated when her only child dies suddenly. At a loss for what to do with all the time that had been devoted to her daughter, Mary is encouraged to learn how to knit. Mary scoffs at the idea at first but when she finally joins a knitting circle, she slowly begins to heal. As the members of the group each teach Mary a new skill and tell their stories, Mary realizes she is not alone in her grief. But will she heal in time to save her marriage which is on the verge of collapse?

For those of you that have read my reviews in the past, you already know that the other hobby I am passionate about is knitting. I am a self taught knitter having learned how to cast on and do the knit stitch from my sister one vacation and learning the rest from YouTube videos. About four years ago, I wandered into my local yarn store and discovered that there was a Wednesday night knitting group, which worked perfectly with my work schedule. Since joining that group I have made some wonderful new friends and pushed myself to make more than just blankets and dish cloths, which is why this book resonated with me so well.

One of the aspects that Hood portrays so well in this book is the friendships that Mary makes in her knitting group. As you sit and knit, you start to talk and eventually share parts of yourself. The knitting group becomes your weekly therapy, that block of time that is just for you.
Hood does and excellent job of weaving in all of the stories of the knitters into one coherent tale. As each new background is revealed, I found myself becoming just as emotionally invested in the secondary characters as well as Mary.

The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood is a standalone read. Hood has done a fantastic job of not only capturing knitting as a hobby but showing off the friendships within the group as well. If you enjoy women’s fiction, this book would be a good read for you.

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Review: WE ARE UNPREPARED by Meg Little Reilly

In We Are Unprepared by Meg Little Reilly, Ash and Pia, two hipsters from Brooklyn, New York have recently moved to the small town of Isole, Vermont. There they purchased a beautiful farm house and plan to live a more slower paced life. All of those plans are ruined when the government issues a warning for the eastern half of the United States: a super storm, the likes of which has never been seen will hit sometime in the next few months with devastating consequences. Ash and Pia react to the news in different ways, putting a strain on their marriage. Will their marriage survive? Will they even survive the Storm?

If you do NOT believe in global warming and climate change, stop reading this review and don’t even bother reading this book. For those that do believe in global warming and climate change, this fictional account of Ash and Pia presents an alarming and realistic scenario. Reilly spins an apocalyptic tale that focuses not only on the Storm but the havoc it wrecks on the environment and the people. Like the title says, the United States really isn’t ready for a disaster of the magnitude portrayed in this book.

In addition to the climatic havoc global warming wrecks, Ash and Pia find their marriage being ripped apart. Vermont was supposed to be a huge change for them. A chance for them to slow things down and perhaps even start a family. Instead Ash and Pia take opposing sides in preparation for the Storm. Ash becomes one of the voices of reason in the town and even takes on a leadership role. Pia meanwhile throws her lot in with the doomsday peppers in direct contradiction of what her husband is trying to accomplish.

A lot of time is spent on Pia’s increasingly erratic behavior. I am not sure if Reilly intended for this but my overall impression of Pia was that she had an undiagnosed mental illness that was brought out by the Storm. What was once cute and artistic in Brooklyn now begins to annoy Ash and pull at the seams of their marriage. Ash spends a lot of time in the book biting his tongue while Pia flits around from project to project and displaying some concerning behaviors.

We Are Unprepared is Meg Little Reilly’s debut novel. The book is a gripping account of a natural disaster and the effects of it not only on the environment but on people as well. Featuring well developed characters with a scarily realistic plot, this is a great read for anyone who enjoys natural disaster/dystopian fiction.

(Candy borrowed this book from the library.)

Review: LIFE AFTER PERFECT by Nancy Naigle

What a book. I downloaded Life After Perfect by Nancy Naigle back when it came out in May. I started it. Then stopped. I started it again and stopped. Why? Because it has a LOT of emotion in it. Emotion I wasn’t ready for. I typically read books that sweep me up in the romance or the suspense of it. The ones that take me out of my personal reality. Life After Perfect is real. The characters are real. The struggles are real. They hit home. I am sure everyone that reads this has a friend or family member that has gone through or is going through something in this book. It’s an emotional, heart-tugging, tearful read. But it’s also a beautiful and heartwarming read.

23733236Katherine “Katy” Barclift is watching one friend bury her husband and another friend go through some infidelity in her marriage. She is looking at this from her own “perfect” life. When that perfect life of hers hits a bump, it rocks her world. Rocks it right out of town. And right into Dr. Derek Hansen and the friendly faces in Boot Creek, North Carolina.

As in all of Naigle’s books, the descriptions of settings in Life After Perfect make you feel as though you have been to the town. You taste the yummy blackberry cobbler. You feel the water from the creek on your feet. She does a fabulous job of setting the scene.  I enjoy how Naigle is able to bring out the small town charm in her books and makes you want to move into those towns! In Life After Perfect, small town hospitality is at it’s finest when Katy needs it most.

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Review: THE PROFESSIONAL FREELANCER by Rory Scherer

What do you do when you are down on your luck and unemployed?  Well, you take the advice of your best buddy and become a “professional freelancer” by doing whatever odd jobs people will hire you for. Unfortunately,  those odd jobs can lead to a lot of trouble if you aren’t careful.

22430171When I saw the cover of The Professional Freelancer by Rory Scherer, I thought not my cup of tea. Fortunately, I read the blurb and thought why not. This is a hilarious laugh out loud novella that reminded me so much of Kurt Vonnegut that I kept looking for illustrations and Kilgore Trout. Scherer ‘ s observations about our society were also dead on accurate.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this novella is that the narrator is never given a name or description and is talking directly to the reader.  The reader knows the narrator is a man but that is all we are told.  While this may seem odd, it allows the reader to develop their own picture of the narrator and in a sense the narrator becomes Every Man.

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Review: THE MIGHT HAVE BEEN by Joseph M. Schuster

In The Might Have Been by Joseph M. Schuster, Edward Everett Yates is having a horrible year. His wife has left him, he’s still stuck managing a single A ball club in No Where, Iowa, and he’s pretty sure he’s going to be fired at the end of the season. At 60, Edward isn’t sure what he’ll do and finds himself looking back on what could have been.

12475389I must be a glutton for punishment reading a baseball book in December.  Pitchers and catchers don’t report for two more months.  Schuster’s descriptions of the game are so spot on accurate, I felt like I was at a game. I could smell the scent of food wafting on a warm summer breeze,  hear the concession guy hollar, “Peanuts!  Ice Cold Beer”, and vividly see the brilliant green of the outfield as the players shifted to accommodate the batter.

Schuster’s love for the game pours through the pages. His main character, Edward, could be found at any minor league club. The experienced player turned manager,  who for one brief glorious moment got called to “The Show”. Edward’s time at the Majors was so brief that if you blinked,  you would miss it. A career ending injury, forces him to seek employment outside of baseball. Only Edward has baseball running through his veins and he returns, eventually becoming the manager that his players look back on fondly.

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Review: AN IMAGINARY HOUSE BY THE SEA by Cecily Gates

In An Imaginary House by the Sea by Cecily Gates, Dawn Campbell had it all: the high profile job, the swanky apartment,  and the hot boyfriend.  In a blink of an eye, it’s all gone and Dawn retreats from the city to her parents home to lick her wounds. When she gets back home,  she discovers her childhood friend and crush, John has moved back home. Despite being married,  John and Dawn have undeniable chemistry but John refuses to do more than kiss Dawn. Deciding to confront his wife, Dawn marches over one day only to discover that perfect Marguerite isn’t so perfect after all. The two women become unlikely friends and that friendship changes the lives of everyone they know.

22565408When I first started reading this book, I assumed this was going to be a sweet romance. Dawn would convince John to leave the shrew known as Marguerite,  and they would get a HEA. The story is about so much more. It’s about friendships,  loss, choices made, and redefining yourself.

Dawn was a difficult character for me to like. I think mainly because it was due to her penchant for married men. She knew John was married (as well as her ex boyfriend in the city) and yet she still kept after him.

Gradually, Dawn grew on me as she changed.  Her friendship with Marguerite, though strained at first,  made her into a better person. Suddenly Dawn wasn’t as selfish and self absorbed and it made her more like able.

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