Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein

Our Short History coverWhat would you do if you were told you had a terminal disease and were a mom of small children? How would you prepare them? What would you leave to them? Would you write them a memoir to remember you? Our Short History tells how Karen Neulander, a single mom, deals with this issue after she is diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer and is not expected to live much longer. This is a sensitively written fictional memoir to her six year old son. It’s sad, but also funny. I would very much recommend it. Request a copy.

(This review was originally submitted by JoAnn on May 23, 2017)

This is How It Always Is by Laurel Frankel

Rosie and Penn are parents of five boys in Madison, Wisconsin.  From a young age it is clear that their youngest son, Claude, is different from the other boys.  At three years old, he tells his parents he wants to be a girl when he grows up and wants to wear dresses and bows in his hair.
Acting in the best interests of their child, Rosie and Penn are supportive of Claude’s feelings.  He begins to transform into a girl named Poppy.  Conflicts and hostilities   from their community cause them to move.  When they relocate, they decide to keep Claude’s gender a secret, which eventually causes stress and grief to the entire family.

Although the story is about a transgender child, the bigger story is how parents will always move heaven and earth for their children.  Being a parent, I could totally relate.  Both my children have such different personalities, but I love them both so much equally in their uniqueness and struggles. That’s what being a parent is all about, navigating the unpredictable territory of raising children.  It is a strong reminder that we should judge less and embrace the differences in people.  A powerful read, especially in this time period.  Request a copy.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

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Orphan Train is a book set in both the present day and in the late 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. The two main characters are Vivian and  Molly.

The present-day story focuses on Vivian and her relationship with Molly, a teenager who has been bounced around from foster home to foster home and is about to age out of the foster care system. The early years of the story concentrate on Vivian, as a young orphaned girl who traveled from NYC to Minnesota on one of the infamous “orphan trains” that were used to get orphans out of the cities into the country where they might have a better opportunity to find families and to be able to make a good life.

The story is bleak at times, and captures the incredibly hard lives orphans were subjected to in the past, as well as the hard times for some of those in our system today who are tossed from place to place and used for labor and money.

This was a very interesting story about a piece of American history that was previously unknown to me.  I really enjoyed the part of the book that dealt with the young Vivian and her life on the Orphan Train.  As a result of reading this fictional account of this piece of history, I have looked into reading some of the true accounts of some of these orphan’s lives on that Orphan Train.





Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

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I have never read a book like this before.  It was recommended to me by a friend, so I took it on vacation and finished it during the week I was away.  The narrator throughout is Budo, the imaginary friend of Max, an eight-year-old autistic boy who “imagined” Budo 5 years earlier.  Budo watches over Max, but being imaginary, cannot make his presence felt in the real world. This becomes a problem when Max is in real danger and Budo must find a way to help his friend.

The author has created a world of Imaginary Friends that is fascinating and well thought out, and his understanding of little boys like Max is also incredible.  Budo’s biggest fear is that he will fade away into nothingness as all imaginary friends eventually do when kids grow up and stop believing in them.  The bond between this special “imaginary” friend and the love he feels for the boy who created him makes this such a wonderful story.

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls
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This debut novel for Emma Cline is very true to the 1960s, with young girls looking to find themselves and ending up finding security in cults. The main character,  Evie, is lost — her parents just got divorced, her dad is living with a younger woman, her mom is trying to find a new husband, and Evie and her best friend have a falling out.  What she ends up finding is this clan of girls in the park.  That leads her to their ranch, where she gets drawn into their wild lifestyle of drugs, sex, and eventually horrible crime.  The story starts in Evie’s present time and keeps flashing back to tell this story.  I enjoyed this weird book, which concentrated not on the horribleness of this time, but more on the relationship between the girls.

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair

The Girl in the Garden
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This is the first book by this author.  I read it over a weekend.  The story begins as a letter from Rahkee (a young Indian woman) to her fiance as she is leaving him to return to her ancestral home in India to deal with her past.  The bulk of the novel settles on Rakhee’s summer spent in India before her 11th birthday with her mother’s (Amma) mysterious family and away from her father, Aba. Most of the story is told through the voice of young Rakhee, an innocent girl exposed to a brand new life in India as she discovers a secret garden that holds dark secrets of her family’s past that will change her life forever during that summer.  It’s a quick read that was beautiful but also sad.



The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

The Forgetting Time
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Is reincarnation possible?  This wonderful new book explores what can possibly happen after we die and how far we would go to help our children and those we love.  This is a debut novel by  Sharon Guskin.

Janie Zimmerman became pregnant after a one-night stand.  Now her son Noah is four years old and highly intelligent.  He begins to experience bizarre behavior.  He becomes difficult, and is kicked out of school.  He is not crazy.  He does not like baths and is afraid of water.  He speaks of another mother whom he wants to go home to.  Dr. Jerome Anderson, a psychologist,  has been studying young children who seem to recall details from previous lives and is documenting this into a book.  Soon Noah, Janie, and Anderson  find themselves on a journey looking for answers — has Noah indeed been reincarnated?

Find Her by Lisa Gardner

Find HerI have never read Lisa Gardner before.  This book is the eighth in the  Detective D. D. Warren series, but you really didn’t need to have read the others.  This chilling murder mystery thriller stands on its own.  Florence Dane spent 472 days as the prisoner of a sexual predator, spending most of her time in a wooden coffin.  The story picks up after fice years of her being free.  Her kidnapping has left her scarred and obsessed with finding missing people and bringing their kidnappers to justice, which leads to her being abducted all over again.  Detective D. D. Warren’s job is now to find Flora as well as another missing girl.  A very highly emotional, haunting thriller.



Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

Where It Hurts
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Where It Hurts is a hard crime story.  It is tightly plotted and very descriptive with lots of information on its setting in Long Island, which made it a bit slow at times.  However, the characters and plot were so interesting that  it had me coming back to see how it would all play out.

This is the first book in a series featuring ex-cop Gus Murphy.  His son’s sudden death has thrown him into a deep hole of grief leading to the end of his marriage, problems with his daughter, and a menial job as a hotel van driver, living at the hotel and isolated from everything he knew. Then he is contacted by a man he regularly used to arrest and asked to look into the barbaric death of the man’s son.  Initially reluctant to do so, Gus slowly uncovers more and more details about those involved and as he does so, he also learns to deal with his personal grief and move on with his life.

I have never read this author before, but will look into some of his other popular series since I enjoy mystery.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen
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I loved this quick read YA fantasy.  It reminded me of The Hunger Games series.  This fantasy world is divided into the Silvers and the Reds (based on the color of your blood).  The Silvers are the rulers with special powers, and the Reds are the slaves working day and night to ensure the comfort of Silvers.  The story centers on Mare Barrow, a Red, and this determines her identity.  She’s a thief from a large family, trying to survive in a cruel world.  Unexpectedly she is thrown into the royal palace as a servant.  But, in an instant, her life takes a new turn.  It is discovered that Mare bleeds Red, but  possesses a very distinct superpower — one that could overthrow the crown and the hierarchies of the Silvers and Reds.  Thus starts the battle for the power of the kingdom and for loyalties. . .  I just got the sequel to start reading, and I am looking forward to the adventure continuing.

The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

The Murderer's Daughter
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This was my first time reading this author, and enjoyed him.  The book was advertised as a thriller, but basically it’s a psychological thriller.  The story follows the life of Dr. Grace Blades, a psychologist, who has a special gift for treating troubled souls, people who have experienced certain traumatic events.  Her own past is very dark, which makes her a fascinating character.   The novel switches from the  past to present day, explaining Grace’s troubled past, which ends up coming back to haunt her grownup life.  Her upbringing was very twisted, which was disturbing.  However, I enjoyed it seeing how she overcame it to become the successful woman she was.


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
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I’ve always believed that giving flowers meant something.  However, until I read this book, which explains the meaning of flowers that originated in the Victorian era, I had no idea how they could be used to communicate feelings.  Do flowers speak to us in this way ?  I really don’t know, but it’s nice to think so, and the author has wrapped this language into a wonderful story.

The Language of Flowers tells the story of Victoria, a girl who has never known the security of a real family or home, having been tossed around between foster homes as a child.  Switching between Victoria as a child and then as a young adult, the novel tells the story of her haunted past and how she came to love and understand this language of flowers, which eventually finds her love and happiness.  An easy read that was touching.

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Pretty Baby
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This is a new author to me, and I really enjoyed her writing.  This book is a great psychological thriller.  You don’t have a clue what is going to happen or what happened until the author reveals more details as the story unfolds until the bitter end.  The story is told from the three point of views of the main characters.  Willow, Heidi, and Chris all tell their parts of the story, how they are feeling, what’s happening with them . I enjoy books written in this manner.

Heidi is a kind-hearted woman who is always taking in strays, so when she spots Willow (a homeless teenager with a baby), she takes her into home and offers her aid and kindness.   Heidi’s husband, Chris, and daughter, Zoe, are not too impressed.  Who is Willow?  Has Heidi done the right thing?  You wonder as you learn about the past history of Willow and the baby.   There are many underlying themes to the story as we learn the past of all the main characters.  I didn’t anticipate some of the twists.  If you enjoy thrillers, this is definitely a good choice.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

We Never Asked for Wings
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I’m always into trying new authors, and I did enjoy this novel.  The story dealt with problems immigrants in America face daily — their struggles to become a part of the American Dream and their hopes and fears.  The book had very realistic, multi-faceted characters.  The story centered on a woman named Letty who became a mother in her teenage years, but was never really involved in the upbringing of her children because her mother stepped in and took on the responsibility.  When Letty’s parents moved back to Mexico, she was forced to take over her children’s care and try to give them a better life so they wouldn’t make her mistakes.  An enjoyable and educational read.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice
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What a powerful book on such a tough subject.  You hear about Alzheimer’s Disease and you think older people.  This book, which has also been made into a movie, tells the story of a woman who is at the height of her career as a college professor when she is struck with this disease at the age of 50.  The author provides a really insightful and intuitive account of the world of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and how it takes your whole identity away.  It was really sad to read, but I finished it in three short days.  Definitely worth it.