Some Kind of Happiness

13260524by Claire Legrand
Children’s Lit
5 of 5 stars

This was recommended to me last summer and this book impressed me with every page! The writing breaks your heart or makes you laugh with each chapter!

Finley Hart is facing the worst summer of her life. Her parents are sending her to her father’s estranged side of the family while they “work things out.” (Finley knows what that means.) Meeting her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all at once and then staying with them for three months is not her idea of fun. Her only escape is the Everwood–stories she’s been writing about a magical forest for years. But she didn’t expect the Everwood to be real, and right behind her grandparents’ house. And she didn’t expect her cousins to be knights or the neighbor boys to be pirates. Suddenly her summer of adventure might be fun! If the secret darkness inside her doesn’t destroy it all.

Finley’s struggle to hide her anxiety and depression is just heartbreaking. The girl who reads all the time, who does crossword puzzles with her father, still doesn’t have words to understand the heavy sadness inside her that can make getting out of bed feel impossible. She knows she’s lucky, she has family, a place to live, food to eat–she should feel happy! Everyone else does, what is wrong with her? So she writes and writes and writes trying to find out.

Understanding herself through her stories is such a cathartic experience and it doesn’t present everything as “fixed” in the end. There’s new truths, and hope, and ways to help herself get through her “blue days” but the blue days aren’t going away. For anyone facing these feelings, it’s a good reminder that you aren’t broken.

All of this is the underlying theme of the book, but the main story is about Finley finding her family, and uncovering dark secrets in the past that led to the rifts in the present. How bringing these things to light is the only way to heal, even if it’s painful. There are so many moments of warmth and just as many arguments that hit your vulnerable parts in the way only family members can.  An emotionally messy portrait of the only kind of family there is: an imperfect one.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Some Kind of Happiness is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd – Emmaline is one of many sick children staying in the countryside during the war. But she is the only one who can see the winged horses in the manor’s mirrors. When the Horse Lord sends an injured white horse named Foxfire to her world for protection, Emmaline must brave her fears to keep it safe. See my review here.
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm – This illustrated story features children dealing with serious adult situations and how they can learn to cope with them. Sunny’s determination to know the full truth leads her to uncover many family secrets as she spends the summer at her grandfather’s retirement community. See my review here.
  • Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes – After surviving several terrible accidents, Maguire is convinced that she is bad luck and a danger to others. But when her mother mentions a family trip to Ireland to see their family’s roots, Maguire knows it will require getting on a plane–and decides maybe it’s time to stop isolating herself. With the help of a new therapist and a new friend also trying to complete some “therapy challenges” Maguire might be able to let go of the past to save her future. See my review here.

Orange: The Complete Collection

25667474by Ichigo Takano
Graphic Novel
4 of 5 stars
(This is a review for all 5 volumes of Orange)

My lovely friend and CP Meg rec’d these to me and they are so cute! Coming off the utter story hangover that is the film “Your Name” this was perfect!

This story arc is about a group of high school friends who befriend the new guy at school. But Naho receives a letter from herself ten years in the future, warning her that tragedy strikes, and she must do everything the letter recommends if she wants to save Kakeru’s life. Skeptical at first, Naho quickly realizes everything in the letter comes true, and if she doesn’t act quickly, Kakeru will be lost to them again.

26247042The friendships are fantastic and the slow-burn, awkward romance between Naho and Kakeru is so adorable! It’s a story about how the seemingly mundane moments in everyday life can matter so much, and that it’s important to be there for your friends and not entirely wrapped up in yourself. It hits the heavier moments with grace and provides plenty of humor too. I had so much fun speeding through these! The first three volumes are bound in one book, and the remaining two are in the second volume.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Orange is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm – This cute, nostalgic story features children dealing with serious situations regarding addiction and how they can learn to cope with them. See my review here.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Simon isn’t exactly “out” and the only person he can truly be himself around is Blue – the boy he’s been emailing that he’s crushing on so hard. As he and Blue try to figure out each other’s true identities, Simon has to be brave, especially since another guy at school is threatening to expose his secret. See my review here.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – Paige’s boyfriend drowned in a freak accident the previous summer, and now she’s facing junior year as The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned, with a side of anxiety. Her attempt to make a better year for herself doesn’t go as planned, but that’s kind of a good thing. The friendships in this story are wonderful! See my review here.
  • This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills – When Sloane falls in with a new group of friends she finds herself on a quest to save a painting by their deceased mother that has gone missing. Another story about how it’s the in-between moments that build a life. See my review here.

Lily and the Octopus

27276262by Steven Rowley
Fiction
4 of 5 stars

Debut novel: June 7, 2016

Obviously, I grabbed this book because of the cover and the funny title. As a dachshund lover with my first dachshund, this is an incredibly endearing, emotional story about a man and his dog that had me crying buckets and laughing at dachshund quirks (although I think any dog lover would appreciate and love this book)! My dachshund Kiwi endured all my Emotions as I read this curled up next to me with heavy sighs and side-eye.

Ted’s only enduring companion is his aging dachshund, Lily. But one day he notices an octopus on her head, and their lives take a dramatic turn as he must confront her health and age, and what mortality means for both of them. I hoped that I’d find this story moderately engaging, but the first chapters had me engrossed! The voice is so distinctive, and Lily’s presence so heart-felt, that I had to know what happened next.

Told in both present day and flashbacks through the lens of Ted’s anxiety and depression, we see the entirety of his relationship with Lily, as well as the volatile nature of his romantic relationship with Jeffrey (now ended). Lily and the octopus reveal his struggle to find happiness again when it’s so much easier to isolate himself with his dog.

Lily is a perfectly loveable, perfectly accurate, perfectly unique dachshund. The octopus is sinister in the way that only impersonal attacks can be. Ted tells this story with the shock, heartbreak, and humor we all feel in terrible situations. The author’s personal material shines through in the best way and the story’s pacing unfolds at a good clip. Be prepared to laugh, cry, and hug your pet until their eyes bulge and they wriggle in protest.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Lily and the Octopus is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – An aging bookstore owner on an island finds his life changed in surprising ways when his prized copy of Tamerlane (his retirement plan) disappears and a baby turns up on his doorstep. See my review here.
  • The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings – Even Hawaii can’t provide comfort when it comes to death. Matt must tell his two girls that their comatose mother’s will orders him to take her off life support. At the same time, his family’s valuable land has a buyer, but only he can decide to preserve or develop the pristine wilderness. This is darkly funny (all the good parts in the movie come from this) and a fast read.
  • The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – Pat is on probation and determined to reinvent himself so that his estranged wife will fall in love with him again. But fate and the widowed neighbor girl Tiffany might upset his master plan.

The Female of the Species

25812109by Mindy McGinnis
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be unflinching. It shoves the worst parts of humanity in your face and demands a response. It’s a dark book–trigger warnings could be peppered throughout for violence, rape (not on-page), and animal cruelty–but it’s so good.

Alex’s sister was murdered three years ago. When the killer walked free, she secretly took vengeance into her own hands. Jack is the valedictorian jock who wishes he could forget his past and make a future for himself by escaping the town. Peekay is the preacher’s daughter who wishes she could exist beyond her dad’s job. The three of them are drawn together in different ways for their senior year.

This book rips apart rape culture, sexism, the dangers of stereotypes, all in a small town with little opportunity for its students to grow in any capacity. Yet they all do grow, and you’re along for every doubt, question, and realization.

Alex finds herself enraged by things everyone else takes for granted: that “boys will be boys”, that what a girl wears determines her reputation, that words are thrown around with little regard for their effects. She doesn’t understand the part of herself that rises to lash out and attack people for their behavior, whether it’s a crime or simply an offensive habit.

I think many women have experienced a lot of rage this year, and this story felt especially timely. As Alex struggles to understand her impulses and to fit in, she had me questioning why we don’t feel the same anger over injustice, sexism, and cruelty. Laying out everything explored in this book wouldn’t come across in the same way. As each chapter unfolded, connections between different human idiosyncrasies and social customs pop up to frustrate you and prod you into changing society for the better.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Female of the Species is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

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  • The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – Cassie and her mother have a volatile relationship, capped by Cassie’s involuntary stint in a psychiatric ward. Now 18 and free to go to college (against medical advice) she hopes to begin a new life. But then her mother reappears promising all the love Cassie always wanted. See my review here.
  • Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero – Gabi always feels too white for her family, too Mexican for her classmates. As one friend tries to come out as gay, and the other has an unplanned pregnancy, Gabi finds herself spread thin over all her responsibilities, and discovers poetry as an escape. See my review here.
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Lia and Cassie were best friends with a pact to be the skinniest girls in school. But after Cassie is found dead in a motel, Lia struggles with her friend’s ghostly encouragement to continue their contest and the insidious voice in her head that insists she’s still fat. See my review here.
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All the Bright Places

18460392by Jennifer Niven
YA Contemporary
5 of 5 stars

I’ll admit, the cover drew me to this book. The beautiful jacket and the whimsical embossed hardcover all demanded I take it home! This is one of those heart-wrenching bittersweet reads that makes you think (and cry).

Violet is counting the days until graduation. Nothing is the same without her older sister, Eleanor, who was killed in a car accident the previous year. Finch thinks about dying every day, but manages to find reasons to stay alive one day at a time. The two of them meet in the school’s bell tower, on the ledge–and they leave together, too. When a school project has them seeking out the “wonders of Indiana” they both start to see things differently.

As a Midwestern girl, I can say the commentary on life in flyover country is completely spot-on. Niven had me cracking up! The idea of “the largest ball of paint” and other obscure “tourism” sites is so true to life. I enjoyed the school project and the challenge it presented about perspective both to Violet and Finch and to me.

Of course, this is also a story of suicide, and survivors of suicide. This taboo subject is close to the heart of the author, as her deeply personal acknowledgment note explains. For me, this made the story emotionally authentic, which is something I worry about when “quirky” meets “serious issues.” Nothing happened for dramatic effect, Finch’s struggles weren’t cheapened, and Violet’s journey was nearly autobiographical.  The best part of this book is that it provides a way to talk about something that is viewed with shame, stigma, and blame–to everyone involved. It becomes so clear that the worst thing you can do is not talk about it, and that’s something everyone needs to know. There is help, no matter how dark things seem.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, All the Bright Places is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!


Similar reads:

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – A star-crossed romance between Hazel and Gus, two teens with different cancers, different outlooks on life, and the realization that no amount of snarky banter or dismal diagnoses will stop them from dating. Both funny and emotional, with plenty of introspection. See my review here.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – Another heart-breaking romance between two teens who don’t believe in love, yet can’t help falling for each other. Eleanor is from the wrong side of the tracks; Park is the nerdy Asian American that nobody likes–but even he is smart enough not to befriend outcast Eleanor. Until he realizes she might be the only person who understands him. See my review here.
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord – Vivi and her artist mother are spending the summer in beachside town Verona Cove. Jonah is cute enough to be the perfect summer fling. But as Vivi and Jonah start to share what they’re running from, they’ll have to decide if their problems will bring them closer or drive them apart. See my review here.
  • The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord – Paige’s is aware that high school is all about labels. And hers is “The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned.” With the help of her grandmother and girlfriends, she hopes to turn this year into something better, and find a way to heal. See my review here.

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