☕ Book Break ☕ |~Protected by Claire Zorn~

~Protected by Claire Zorn~

“Books are especially useful if you have no one to talk to; they give the illusion that you choose not to talk to anyone, as opposed to the fact you simply have no friends.”

Protected is a novel about grief, bullying, and coming to terms with tragedy. Hannah has lost her older sister Katie in a car crash. The same crash has left her father with injuries that cause him daily pain and make it difficult for him to walk.

The story is told in scenes out of sequence, hopping back-and-forth in time. I honestly don’t know how she managed to write the story this way and keep the clarity of the storyline. I never got confused. I listened to this on my Kindle with no line breaks or anything to tell when the time shifted and had no problem keeping oriented.

There’s a mystery surrounding what exactly happened. Hannah knows, but she’s not telling. Her dad doesn’t remember. Listening to this book made me anxious to find out.

The death of Hannah’s sister has caused a complete reversal in many areas of Hannah’s life. Previously, she was bullied horribly at school.

Much in this book is disturbing. The bullying was extreme. The complicated family dynamic made my heart ache for Hannah. Her sister, Katie, isn’t a very likable character and I wanted to quit this book more than once because of it, and yet I kept reading.There’s quite a bit of language and it does deal with serious topics. It does end with a satisfying resolution.

If my teen read this book I would want to read it along with them and talk about the issues that come up.

 

2015

Children’s Book Council of Australia Award Nominee for Older Readers

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Young Adult Fiction

Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction

The Inky Awards Nominee for Gold Inky

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine~

~Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine~

 

“I don’t like the word soon because you don’t know when it’s going to sneak up on you and turn into NOW. Or maybe it’ll be the kind of soon that never happens.”

 

Caitlin depended on her older brother, Devon, to help her navigate the world. But when he is one of the victims of a school shooting she has lost her guide. Her father, overcome by grief, is of little help. Functioning in an environment that is not friendly to her was difficult already, and now she must deal with the fallout of her brother’s death.

 

The story is told from the point of view of an 11-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. Even so, the descriptions of Caitlin’s world and attitudes of those around her came through clearly. I could tell what her counselor was thinking at times, the surprise you feel when a kid on the spectrum makes a pronouncement, in all innocence, that smacks you in the head and makes you do a double take.

 

This novel stirred up so many emotions in me. My heart cracked open every time Caitlin tried to figure out “closure” and how to get it. A beautifully written, emotional read with an important message and a satisfying ending. This book touched me.

 

This novel was written with a tremendous amount of sensitivity. It’s on the short side but is not light weight. It covers heavy topics. There are no graphic descriptions or extreme bullying, but the characters do struggle with the issues stemming from school violence.

 

Very relevant to the situation in our schools and culture today. I was of two minds about a book that dealt with both the issues of special needs with school violence. Too many people have wedded these. It’s a complicated issue. I felt like this novel did a beautiful job with the topic while honoring storytelling.

 

One thing I hope everyone can agree on is that empathy and understanding can go a long way in helping all humans deal with the tragedies life throws our way.

 

If you’re looking for a book about the power of friendship, relationship, and the struggles of grief, this one might fit the bill.

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All the Feels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Character Interaction

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Relevant

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Storytelling

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum~

 

~What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum~

 

“There’s a famous expression that if you’ve met one person with autism, then… you’ve met one person with autism.

So you met me.

Just me.

Not a diagnosis.”

 

 

David Drucker has what used to be known as Asperger’s although he does not claim the label.

 

David is at the bottom rung of the social ladder . Kit, on the other hand, is one of the popular crowd. When her father dies, she can’t bear to hang out in the lunchroom with her chatty  regular crew and decides to sit with David, who eats his lunch all by his lonesome at a table devoid of company. A friendship ensues which eventually leads to a romance.

 

David is sweet, socially naive, and blunt. He carries a notebook around with him that his older sister helped him start when he first began high school. It lists things to remind him of proper social behavior, and clues to help him identify people. David, like many on the spectrum, does not easily recognize people, not to mention being totally lost socially.

 

The idea of David’s notebook reminded me a bit of the nonfiction book “The Journal of Best Practices” compiled by a man on the spectrum as an assistive tool to help him be a good husband. I can so see this kind of notebook being a necessary part of an aspies life to help navigate all the intricacies of day to day interaction.

 

Kit has her own set of issues to deal with.

 

I liked this book. I felt the portrayal of David was realistic, and I liked his character. There is a little bit of stereotyping by David himself when he denies his autism, even though it’s obvious he’s on the spectrum. I LOVED the positive relationship David had with his big sister, and the fact that he had supportive parents.

 

Adding to the story was a bit of a mystery about the car accident, which Kit asks David to help her solve. The answer is surprising.

 

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Plot

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Realistic

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Heart Tugging

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

David does have to deal with some serious bullying, but I felt it was realistic, considering some of the stories I’ve heard.

 

 

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Kindred by Octavia E. Butler~

~Kindred by Octavia E. Butler~

 

“Repressive societies always seemed to understand the danger of “wrong” ideas.”

 

Twenty-six year  old Dana lives in California. The year is 1976. She has recently moved into a new home and is suddenly caught up in a mysterious time portal that transports her to 19th century Maryland. In this alternate time, she saves a boy from drowning. He turns out to be her white, slave-holding  ancestor.

 

The plot  has depth to it, exploring the complexities of Dana’s relationship with her white husband and her own feelings about her family history. This is a complicated story, one to read and think about. The writing is so good the story pulls you along, but be warned, parts in the narrative are disturbing. Dana is thrust repeatedly into a world where she is a slave and repeatedly has to save her ancestor, regardless of her feelings.

 

This novel is incredibly well written, the storytelling superb. The writing feels fresh. I did not realize it was written in the seventies until after I finished the book.

 

Kindred is a unique book. Even if you never read fantasy or sci-fi, you should get this book. I’m not sure who recommended it but I’m glad they did. Part historical fiction and part sci-fi, this novel written by Octavia E. Butler is one I think everyone should read.

 

This novel is firmly in my notable books pile. If this had been on my radar when I was homeschooling the kids I would have used it in a unit study for my older students.

 

This book convinced me it is okay to write prologues! Read it and you will see what I mean.

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Favorite Reads and New Authors of 2018

My absolute favorite book I read in 2018 was Wonder. I have a goal to finally review it this year! I can’t believe I missed this one.

Of the books I actually did manage to review, here is a short list of favorites in no particular order. Click on the title to read my review.

 

Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Across the Universe

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

How to Stop Time

Dystopian

When the English Fall

Contemporary YA

Turtles All the Way Down

All the Bright Places

The Hate U Give

Contemporary MG

So. B. It.

Stargirl

Contemporary Adult

Elenaor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Beartown

When We Were Worthy

Historical

As Bright as Heaven

The Pecan Man

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Inspirational

Stones for Bread

Contemporary Romance

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky

Fairytale Retellings

Entwined

Nonfiction

In A Different Key

Educated

Favorite New (to me) Authors

Donna Everhart

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

I read a ton more, but these are the ones that come to mind. So many wonderful books? Have you read any of these? Did you discover any new authors? What were your favorite reads of 2018?

 

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere~

~The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere~

Can you guys believe I had not read this book before? This story was based on the song of the same name and I think that’s why wasn’t on my radar.

If you’re looking for a short, sweet, Christmas read that reminds us of what is truly important, then this book fits the bill. This is a story with strongly Christian themes. It moves quickly through time, but I don’t mind that. All of the story problems were resolved, no holes left. I actually prefer a short Christmas book during this busy holiday season.

The story felt like a gentle reminder to value the most important treasures in life.

Heartwarming. Sweet. Easy to read.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~The Christmas Angel Project by Melody Carlson~

~The Christmas Angel Project by Melody Carlson~

“It’s as if heaven has grown closer somehow. It used to feel so far away and otherworldly. But knowing that my loved ones are already there makes it seem more real.”

“Sometimes we have to let our dreams go in order to allow God to bring them back to us –in his way and his timing.”

Anytime I need to get into the holiday spirit, I pull out a Melody Carlson book.

Abby has been known as an “Earth Angel” for her many good deeds, and when she passes away, her book club members are devastated at the loss. In preparation for Christmas, Abby had made an angel ornament for each of the four women. When her husband delivers the angels, the friends make a pact to carry on her tradition of doing good.

This short Christmas novel follows four friends as they attempt to follow in Abby’s footsteps. New beginnings and lessons learned enrich the lives of the friends as they purpose to honor their friend’s memory.

A feel good, heartwarming read. Inspirational. Touch of romance. A story in the tradition of her past Christmas books. Enjoyable, easy read.

Do you have a favorite Christmas author?

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber~

~Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber~

 

“Christmas is a condition of the heart.”

 

Merry’s loving, but meddling, family sign her up for an online dating service. They don’t post a photo of her. Merry’s boss, who she perceives as cold, comes across the dating profile. He doesn’t post his photo, either. Inevitably, the two strike up a conversation without knowing the true identity of the other and develop an online relationship. You know where it goes from there.

 

Classic, well done romcom of the best sort. Merry Knight is an adorable character, and her situation with her love interest is charming. As it turns out, Jayson Bright  is not really the bad sort he’s been pegged as. Both our hero and heroine have a complicated family life and issues to deal with. Good story line that kept me reading.

 

Every time I try to write about this one, I end up giving spoilers, so instead let me just say, if you like charming romcom with a Christmas theme you should get this book. Cute, warm, satisfying. An enjoyable holiday read.

 

This year I’ve discarded more Christmas books than I finished, but this is a good one.

 

Have you read any good Christmas books this season?

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Four Simple but Significant Gift Ideas

Four Simple but Significant Gifts

 

I am sentimental. I love old photos and quilts, but the things I cherish most are memories. I like to give gifts with significance attached to them, and I love books.

 

Journals or Fill in the Blank Books

Most people think their lives are boring, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! I love getting and giving journals. Some people may need journals with prompts.

 

 

My mother’s and my grandmother’s stories are irreplaceable treasures. If I hadn’t given each of them a spiral-bound set of cards with short, easy to answer questions, I would have missed some gems.

My mother is from England, and as a young bride her experiences arriving in America are noteworthy, even if she didn’t think so. For instance, one of the prompts was a question about the Fourth of July. My mother wrote about her first celebration of this holiday. My grandmother, her mother-in-law, told her there would be a picnic. They were to have the usual fixings, including hotdogs. My mother wrote, with typical British understatement:

“I’d never eaten a hotdog before. I’d read that the Indians ate dog, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try it.”

Thinking about how the scenario must have played out, with my grandmother in charge and my reserved, soft spoken mother trying to fit in, cracks me up every time. My mother never mentioned this bit of family history until she was prompted by a journaling card. This one incident made me see my mother in a completely new light. Before, I hadn’t taken the time to imagine how strange it must’ve been to be young, newly married, away from family and everything familiar.

I learned from my grandmother’s responses about my father, as a toddler, climbing to the top of the windmill. My grandmother could do nothing about it. In those days, there was no 911. No one was around to help her, and besides, the structure was too fragile for an adult to climb up or she would have gone up after him herself. With no other recourse, she reprimanded him and yelled at him to get down right now. Then she went inside and closed her eyes while she gripped the edge of the kitchen sink, waiting for a scream. Can you imagine?

Recently my daughter and I were going through some of our old journals. We found plenty to laugh about, and a few things to cry about.

 

Books, Old or New 

The older I get the more I appreciate things that are handed down. One of my greatest treasures is a set of books that was originally a Christmas gift given to my father when he was a boy.

 

 

Finding an old book with an inscription in it ties us to the past. Old favorites shared by generations through the ages makes me feel a certain kinship with people of the past that I have no connection to otherwise. There’s something magical about a book given as a Christmas gift, inscribed with love. The sharing of beloved tales is a marvelous gift.

 

A Book of Memories

One year my mother wrote a compilation of her life and made copies for all of us grown kids. What a gem! How can you put a value on this kind of gift?

 

 

 

Recorded Storybook

If you have a young child in your life, a storybook accompanied by an audio recording of you reading the book aloud is sure to be a hit. My mother did this for my eldest when he was small. It’s not something he’s likely to ever forget.

Stories connect us in a way nothing else does.

 

What are some of your favorite gifts to give or receive?

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy~

 ~A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy~

“She was still vaguely hopeful that there was love out there somewhere—just a little less sure that she might actually find it.”

“Her life was like her house—a colorful fantasy where anything was possible if you wanted it badly enough.”

Chicky Starr revamps an old mansion, turning it into a holiday resort for those wanting to spend time in an out-of-the-way place. Stone House is in a remote area on the cliffs of Ireland, part of a small village. The novel follows a varied cast of characters. A warm read. Humorous. Relatable.

Maeve Binchy was one of a kind. I’m not sure how she did it. The stories she wrote are rich with characters in situations that we often find ourselves. I find myself becoming attached to her characters, and remembering them long after the last page has been read. This was her last novel.

While this is not my favorite novel of hers, it was a joy to revisit for this fan.

This one may be a bit slow in parts, and does seem to meander a bit, but I think it’s well worth the time. It leaves me with a warm, cozy feeling.

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