Honest Bob, the Dog, Has a Tea Party by Anne Terry

honestbob

Four Stars ****

This is an adorable story that challenges four friends that are faced with a hard decision. A beautiful ring is found in Bob the Dog’s cake: Do the guests return the ring to the store where Bob bought the cake, or do they keep it?

Honest Bob, the Dog, Has a Tea Party shows children how telling the truth not only makes you feel better on the inside but it also has some unexpected rewards!

I recommend this book for parents/teachers of 2-6 year olds, give or take depending on the child. While the book is available electronically, this is one time that I recommend splurging for the hardcopy. The computer screen just did not do the beautiful illustrations justice.

I received a copy of this book via a LibraryThing member giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Only the Good Die Young by Douglas Trueman

dieyoungFive Stars *****

Trigger warning: Potential trigger as rape is discussed (not in detail)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Just Listen. Love Letters to the Dead. Music is a powerful thing, as each of the books I’ve just mentioned show.   Only the Good Die Young is another book to add to that list.

Rebecca is a single child raised by her recently divorced mother. Relocating from Toronto to Vancouver, Rebecca tries to find her place in a new school. She’s a classically trained piano player who ends up joining the high school’s jazz band, where she becomes friends with Kyle, a guitarist who is intent on broadening her musical horizons. And because this is a young adult novel, Rebecca develops a crush on the ‘hot drummer with the hot girlfriend’ (not a criticism, just a fact).

Throughout the book Rebecca shares glimpses of the reasons why her mother and her left Toronto and why they have different last names. She also illustrates how one lie can have a snowball effect on not just the liar, but also those around her. Douglas Trueman does an excellent job with more than one difficult topic. His characters are realistic and people I want to either hang out with or slug.

It has been quite some time since I’ve read a book that’s kept me up all night because I simply could not put it down. Only the Good Die Young did that, though, and that’s why it’s going on my “Best of 2014” list. I highly recommend this book for readers of all ages, not just the young adult/new adult group.

 

I received a copy of this book via a LibraryThing member giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Witch Ball by Adele Elliott

witchball

Stars: 3 ***

This book is a quick read, and despite touching on some serious issues (murder, transgender, and pedophilia, to name a few), it’s an enjoyable read.

Witch Ball follows the life of 15 year old Gertrude (Truly) as she “comes of age.” Sometimes the writing seemed “young.” I’m not sure how to explain other than at times it was as though Truly was writing, not the author. Thoughts and chapters sometimes ended too abruptly.
All in all, though, I would recommend this book.

Book Review: Slave Again by Alana Terry

slaveagain***Trigger warning***

Book opens with a graphic murder scene.

This book sucked me in from cover to cover and is simply amazing! I was hesitant in the beginning, as several different characters are introduced in the first three or so chapters. While at times things did get confusing, overall Alana Terry does a fine job weaving the lives and subplots together.

The main two story lines consist of Sun and Mee-Kyong, two girls who are sold into sex trafficking, and Juliette and Roger Sterns, a married couple living in China near the North Korean border. The Sterns run an underground seminary program with students who were refugees. The next book in this series features two of the seminary students mentioned briefly in this book.

Like I said above, the writing flowed well, and Terry writes in a way that brings things to life. Sadly, this includes matter-of-factly speaking about sex trafficking. The ending brings vindication, though I was left with a huge question. To ask it here would cause a major spoiler, and I can only hope that Terry will answer my unspoken question with Book Two in the Whispers of Refuge series.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Megan’s Birthday Tree by Laurie Lears

treeMegan’s Birthday Tree is a precious story of a young girl, Megan, and her birth mother, Kendra. This book will appeal to readers of all ages, regardless of being part of the adoption triad or not.  In Megan’s Birthday Tree the author shows us what an open adoption could look like.  Kendra keeps in touch with Megan and her parents, and one way she honors the adoption is by decorating a tree every year on Megan’s birthday and then sending pictures of the decorated tree to Megan. This tree was planted when Megan was born, which makes the tradition all the more special. When Megan learns that Kendra is getting married and moving away, Megan is worried that Kendra will forget all about her because she won’t have the tree as a reminder. This is a perfectly valid thought for a young person, and it might be arguable that Megan is grieving (whether consciously or subconsciously) losing her birth mother twice. Thankfully it sounds like her adoption is open enough that while she will probably have “why didn’t you want to keep me?” questions for Kendra, she still has the contact to reassure her that her birth mother loves her. Without that tree to connect them, however, not only is Megan “losing” the close proximity of Kendra, but she is also losing the thing that links the two together.

Since I’m reviewing this book as part of an online book club, one of the discussion questions asks about our own experiences with moving or marriage. I did move to Chicago for graduate school, and this came only two years after I was back in touch with Sean and his family. I’m still not sure how the adoption affects him, maybe because he’s a boy and I’ve been told that boys aren’t as curious about their birth families. The move was hard on me, though, because I had recently been invited to go to Sean’s house and see his chorus performance and just hang out. His parents are truly amazing people, and the fact that they would pick me up at the trolley station and give me a ride home is something I appreciate more than they know. It would be so easy to respond with “No ride? Tough luck,” but his parents aren’t like that at all. Anyway, so yes, moving was difficult for me because I knew I would no longer have the chance to see him frequently. It was also difficult for me to bring up with his parents because they do want me in his life. I’ve only seen him three times in the past two years, which is hard, and I’m counting down until I see him again in May.

Another discussion question asked to describe any traditions that we may have. I’m sad to say that I have no traditions honoring Sean’s birth or adoption. I did keep a scrapbook, which was incredibly healing in 2008, when the grief was highest, but I have not begun a new scrapbook. What I did do as a one-time thing to honor his adoption was that I bought a locket with a mother holding a baby on the front. In it is a picture of Sean on the day he was born and a picture of his birth dad. The chain broke but I still have the locket, and instead of buying coffee I should be saving up to take it to the jewelers.

Finally, as a budding writer, the third discussion question I’m choosing to answer is to rewrite a scene in this book from my point-of-view (So I’ll be writing as Kendra, just to clarify). I can never refuse a good writing challenge!

I pull into Megan’s driveway and barely wait until the car is park before I open the door and leap out. My hands are still brown, despite having scrubbed the dirt away. Usually if I’m coming for a surprise visit I like to sneak up behind Megan, cover her eyes with my hands, and yell, “Guess who?!”  Today I opt for hiding behind a rose bush and calling out her name.

Megan comes running over, and though she’s trying to wipe the tears away, the redness of her eyes gives away the fact that she’s been crying.

“What’s wrong, Megan?” I ask her. I had expected that my getting married and moving away would be hard on her, but I had no idea just how hard it was going to be until Megan’s father called me the previous day.

“You’re going to forget about me,” she sniffled. “You had the tree to remember me and now you don’t have it and you’re going to forget about me.”

My heart just about breaks and my own eyes well up with tears. I pull Megan in for a big bear hug and just hold her for a minute. As I release her I look her in the eyes. “Megan, there is no way in the world I will EVER forget about you. I promise you that.”

“Really?” she asks me.

“Really.”  I grab her hand. “Let me show you something.” I lead her over to my truck. There in the bed sits…

“My birthday tree!” Megan squeals. “You’re taking it with you!”

I smile at her.  “I’d remember you even if I didn’t take this tree with me, but it’s special, just like you, and it’s always going to be a part of me wherever I live.”  I just hope my husband and I don’t move again any time soon!

Meeting Leslea Newman

lesleaOn March 12, 2013, I had the opportunity to meet one of my favorite authors.  Leslea Newman spoke at Women and Children First bookstore in Andersonville.  Newman is most well known for the children’s book Heather Has Two Mommies, but the book that got me hooked on her is Out of the Closet and Nothing to Wear.  I first read that humor book when I was 19 and a newly out lesbian. It’s remained one of my favorite books to this day, and no matter how many times I reread it my funny bone is still tickled.

I went to hear Leslea speak expecting to hear a funny, light-hearted monologue, but since she was promoting her newest book, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepherd, the event was quite somber. October Mourning is a combo poetry/essay book about Matthew Shepherd’s death. She showed us a slide show and talked about her trip to speak at the University of Wyoming the day that Shepherd’s killers were arrested.  After the slide show she read from the book, which brought tears to my eyes. I cannot wait until I can buy a copy.

After the Q&A session (which was interesting but nothing sticks out enough to mention) I had a chance to meet Leslea. I’m embarrassed to admit that I sounded like a high school girl at a Jonas Brothers concert (Are they even still popular? I was going to originally say Hanson, but that really dates me.).  She signed my book (I had brought along a copy of Love Signs) “Poetry = Life;” I didn’t even realize what she wrote until the following day, after I had posted this picture of us and captioned it “Leslea Newman = AWESOME!!!!!” Of course now I believe we have a cosmic connection because of the equal sign. 🙂

A Life Less Ordinary by Victoria Bernadine

lifelessWith all these April showers, it is clear that summer is right around the corner. Have you started your pool-side reading list yet? Is ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ on it? No? What are you waiting for?
I was hooked on this book pretty much from page one. Manny is the type of character readers can relate to, whether they have anything in common with her or not. Forty-five year old Manny quits her job and recruits a virtual stranger to accompany her on a six-month road trip across Canada and the US. Whether you’ve ever wanted to chuck it all away or not, it will be hard not to find yourself cheering for Manny. The author does a brilliant job at tying together the lives and trials of each of the characters, and she does it without rushing, keeping a steady pace and not dragging on (unlike this last sentence!). Although the author had her work cut out for her having to tie in the obstacles for 5 separate characters/families (always such a challenge), she did so with ease.
Fans of Jennifer Weiner and Sarah Mlynowski will enjoy this novel and eagerly wait for her next one.