Tuesday, September 27, 2016

TTT: My Picks for Fall


It's been a rough few days around my house and I think Top Ten Tuesday is just what the doctor ordered!  The seasonal topics always generate my favorite lists.  I'm excited to share the Books on My Fall TBR List and I'm excited to see your selections.  If you want to join in (you do—it's fun!), simply click on over to The Broke and the Bookish, check out the rules of the game, create your own TTT post, then click around the book blogosphere to discover fabulous new blogs and get great reading recommendations.  

Here's what I'm looking forward to reading this Fall.  The Top Ten Book on My Fall TBR List are:


1.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware—I'm almost done with this psychological thriller, which is messing with my head in the best possible way.  Like In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ware's debut, this one features a woman in an isolated locale who's trying to figure out what really happened one fateful night.  It's twistier and altogether more intriguing than Ware's first novel.


2.  Danger Close by Amber Smith—I just received this one in the mail from the good folks over at Atria Books.  It's a memoir by a combat helicopter pilot who just happens to hail from my teensy tiny hometown.  I can't wait to read all about her adventures.


3.  Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly—I always like immigrant stories and because I lived in the Philippines for a year, the premise of this one really speaks to me.  


4.  Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens—This middle grade novel about two friends who form a detective agency to investigate the death of a teacher at their boarding school sounds fun.  I wonder how it will compare to The Scandalous Sisterhood of Pickwillow Place by Julie Berry


5.  Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead—I've never read anything by this award-winning author and her newest, a YA novel about friendship, sounds like an excellent place to start.


6.  The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz—I've been wanting to read this middle grade historical about a Pennsylvania farm girl who takes a job in Baltimore in order to make a better life for herself for a while now.  


7.  Factory Girl by Josanne LaValley—This YA novel has a similar premise to that of #6.  A 16-year-old girl from northern China who's forced to leave her home to work in a far-away factory learns how to survive—and thrive—in a foreign situation.


8.  Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg—The author of this memoir sent me this book about her journey to find answers about a mysterious medical condition from which she was suffering.  When she discovers what is happening, she's faced with an even bigger question: How much time does she have left?  Sounds intriguing, no?



9.  The Last September by Nina de Gramont—This murder mystery and family drama set on Cape Cod sounds compelling.


10.  The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter—An 18-year-old woman struggles to decide if she really wants a relationship with her mother, who forced her into a mental institution several years earlier.  Sounds interesting.

So, there you have it ... ten books I'm looking forward to reading sometime soon.  What's on your list?  Have you read any of the books on mine?  What did you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Leave a comment on this post and I will happily return the favor.

Happy TTT!  

*Book images from Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pride and Prejudice An Enduring Charmer

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Whenever anyone asked me if I'd read Pride and Prejudice, I'd always reply, "Yes, yes, of course!"  Not because I was purposely trying to make myself sound more literary, but because I truly thought I had read Jane Austen's popular work.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I realized during a recent "re-read" of the classic novel that I was actually experiencing it for the first time.  My only excuse is that I did turn 40 not so very long ago and my memory just ain't what it used to be ...

For anyone who hasn't read P&P yet, or who wants to sound like they have without actually expending the time to do so, here's a brief plot summary:

The Bennets have been "blessed" with five charming daughters.  As the family is not wealthy, it's imperative that the girls marry well.  Their conniving, manipulative mother has made it the "business of her life" (11) to see them all paired off to rich, influential men.  When Mrs. Bennet learns that nearby Netherfield Park has been let—and to an eligible bachelor of large fortune, no less—she determines to snag the unsuspecting Mr. Bingley for her eldest daughter.  In the process of wooing him, the family is introduced to Fitzwilliam Darcy, "the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world" (17).  Although he and the amiable Bingley are best friends, the two are nothing alike.  Much to the dismay of her mother, 22-year-old Elizabeth is drawn to the dark, broody stranger.  As events spiral on, true natures are revealed and Lizzy finds that there is much more to the unpleasant Mr. Darcy than meets the eye ...

So much has been written about P&P that I'm not even going to attempt to wax eloquent about its many charms.  Suffice it to say, Austen tells a delightful story full of warmth, wit, and wisdom.  Its magic lies not in plot, but in its lively characters.  Their interactions with each other teach great truths about human nature—and how little it's changed over the last 200 years.  The flirtation, flattery, and finagling feel as modern as an iPhone 7.  The novel's ability to transcend time is a large part of what makes it so appealing.  The plethora of spin-offs that are still being created every year prove that today's readers respond just as heartily to the story as they always have.  

Pride and Prejudice is not my favorite book in the whole world (that would be To Kill a Mockingbird); I'm not even sure it's my favorite Austen (I *think* I read Emma back in the day ...).  Still, I enjoyed it.  I read the Insight Edition from Bethany House, which is pictured above, and I'm not sure if this version's many footnotes added to the reading experience or distracted from it.  If I were to read the novel again for the first time, I think I would choose an un-enhanced edition.  The extra information in my book was fun, though.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice?  Are you a die-hard Darcy girl?  What's your favorite thing about the novel?  What's the best spin-off you've read/seen?  What do you think makes the story so enduring?

(Readalikes:  Does anything else compare?  Ideas?)

Grade:


If this were a movie (and it is!), it would be rated: 


for mild thematic elements

To the FTC, with love:  This copy of Pride and Prejudice is from my personal library.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Carr's Signature Warmth Shines Through in First of New Series

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Stress is an everyday part of Maggie Sullivan's high-pressure life as a Denver neurosurgeon.  It's so ingrained in her the 36-year-old almost doesn't notice that she's heading straight for a nervous breakdown.  Dreading the results of a malpractice lawsuit against her, grieving a recent miscarriage, and trying to find her way after the break-up of a long-term relationship, Maggie's reached the end of her rope.  There's only one place that can heal her broken spirit: Sullivan's Crossing.  

A family campground near the intersection of the Colorado and Continental Divide Trails, Sullivan's Crossing has been in Maggie's family for generations.  Now run by her estranged father, the place offers everything she needs—peace, quiet, distraction—even if it comes with a side of cantankerous old man.  When Sully suffers a debilitating heart attack, Maggie finds herself sucked into caring for her father, his booming business, and a horde of needy tourists.  It's a different kind of stress than she's used to, but it may be just what the doctor ordered for both Maggie and Sully.  

Maggie can't turn down help right now, but she's still suspicious of Cal Jones, a handsome vagabond who's staying at the campground.  She suspects he's not who he appears to be.  She's right.  As the two work together to keep the campground running, they discover surprising commonalities between them—and a passion with the potential to turn into more than just a fleeting campground romance.  Can a summer fling heal two broken people?  At Sullivan's Crossing, anything is possible ... 

I'm not big on the genre as a whole, but I am a sucker for a good Robyn Carr romance.  Carr is a warm, generous woman and those personality traits come through in a big way in everything she writes.  I love her series set in snug little towns filled with good people who cherish their friends, family, and community.  Fiery romances blossom continually in these locales—of course—echoing the cozy glow that emanates from the roads and rills of places like Virgin River, Grace Valley, and Thunder Point.  

Like its fellows, Sullivan's Crossing is a place of beauty and belonging.  The campground has its own personality, though, which makes it a fun setting.  Its residents are warm and down-to-earth, characters who are both compelling and likable.  Although the romance between Maggie and Cal is inevitable, I like that Carr gives it time to build into something that feels real.  Sullivan's Crossing may not have the same place in my heart that Grace Valley and Virgin River do, but I enjoyed What We Find.  It's the first book in a new series—I'm excited to see where it goes!

(Readalikes:  Other books by Robyn Carr.  She's too prolific for me to list all her novels, but you can learn about them on her very informative website.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), sexual content, violence, and references to the consumption of illegal drugs

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of What We Find from the generous folks at Mira Books via those at Little Bird Publicity.  Thank you!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Jacobson's Love Letter to Louisiana Will Hit Y'all Right in the Feels (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Once upon a time, my husband and I took a very last-minute flight from Phoenix to New Orleans.  Since neither of us had ever been to Louisiana, we planned to do a little sight-seeing when we arrived.  Didn't happen.  As soon as we landed, we got a call from the paralegal who worked for our adoption lawyer, telling us we could pick up our new baby a day earlier than planned.  Needless to say, we high-tailed it to Baton Rouge.  We flew out of tourist mode straight into the parents-of-a-newborn frenzy.  By the time we flew out of the state, we'd seen little of Louisiana except for hospital and hotel rooms.  Although I was ecstatic about our new baby girl, I was a little disappointed that we hadn't gotten to experience any of her birth area's colorful culture. 

Reading about a place can never match experiencing a place, but after sinking into Southern Charmed by Melanie Jacobson, I feel like I've spent a week being romanced by my daughter's hometown, with all its many enchantments.  Although there is plenty to love about Jacobson's newest, it's the setting that makes it stand out.  A native of Baton Rouge, the author has penned a passionate and persuasive love letter to the city of her birth.  And it's lovely.  

The story revolves around Lila Mae Guidry, a 24-year-old high school teacher who loves her life in Baton Rouge.  Although eligible LDS men of a certain age are a rare species in the city, she's prepared to remain single forever if that's what it takes to avoid yanking up her deep, deep Louisiana roots.  What Lila's not prepared for is the return of Max Archer, the boy who humiliated her at her first Stake dance.  At 26, her teenage tormentor is smart, successful, and full of the good graces he lacked as a kid.  Not everything about him has changed, though—Max still thinks Baton Rouge is a redneck, backwater town where he would never consider settling on any kind of permanent basis.  Lila can forgive him for most things, but not for that.  Trouble is, she's falling for him.  Hard.  When push comes to shove, can she abandon the city she adores for the man she loves?  Or will her Louisiana-love be the thing that tears the couple apart forever?

Although Southern Charmed is a light, breezy romance like this author's previous novels, it has more depth than the others.  Take Lila, for instance—she's a typical Jacobson heroine, but the fact that she cares so much about both her underprivileged students and her mother's grief makes her infinitely more likable than her successors.  Her story is fuller than theirs as well, giving it more substance.  Add in the vibrant, Technicolor setting and I think it's safe to say that Jacobson has upped her game in a most satisfying way.  Like its predecessors, Southern Charmed sparkles with warmth, romance, and the witty banter that Mel does so well.  The ending is predictable, even cheesy, and yet I found myself sniffling and applauding at the same time.  All the feels, I'm telling you, all the feels.  I've always liked Melanie Jacobson, but Southern Charmed is her best yet.  I adored it, y'all.  

(Readalikes: Reminds me of Until Summer Ends by Elana Johnson; also of other novels by Melanie Jacobson, including The List; Twitterpated; Second Chances; Not My Type; Smart Move; Always Will; and Painting Kisses

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for very mild sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Southern Charmed from the generous folks at Covenant in exchange for participating in the book's blog tour.  Thank you!

--



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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TTT: It's a Genre Thing


It's time again for my favorite weekly meme, Top Ten Tuesday.  If you're up for some bookish fun this morning, join in.  Click on over to The Broke and the Bookish for more information, then make your own list, and bop around the blogosphere to get some great reading recommendations.  Easy peasy. 

I feel like I'm always talking about the same beloved authors and genres around here, so I decided to change things up a little for Top Ten Tuesday.  Today's topic is: Top Ten Favorite Books in X Genre.  Not gonna lie—I considered dystopian, British crime lit, family secrets novels, etc.  In the end, though, I decided to talk about a genre that I enjoy but don't actually read that often.  So, here's my list of my Top Ten Favorite Books-in-Verse:


1.  Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe—This award-winning haiku novel about the Vietnam War is set here in Arizona.  It touched me deeply.


2.  Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson—I'm a big fan of Woodson's YA and MG books, so I was excited to read this memoir-in-verse.  It's a lovely, National Book Award-winning contemplation on race, identity, and discovering one's voice.  


3.  The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf—This haunting, evocative novel is about the Titanic tragedy, a subject I find endlessly fascinating.


4.  Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill—The Salem Witch Trials are another historical topic that is always interesting to read about.  Hemphill manages to tell a very rich story despite the limits of a verse structure.


5.  Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate—Applegate's novels always seem to hit me right in the feels.  It's been a while since I read this one, but in my review I called it a "quick, touching story."


6.  Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse—I read this impactful, atmospheric novel about the Dust Bowl recently and it has definitely stayed with me.


7.  Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham—This one isn't based on historical or world events, but it is a compelling novel that tells an interesting Soul Surfer-ish story.


8.  Crank; Glass; Fallout; and other novels by Ellen Hopkins—Hopkins' YA novels in verse are so graphic and raw that I have a hard time labeling them "favorites."  Still, they're powerful in their unflinching examination of contemporary issues like illegal drug use, prostitution, sexual abuse, etc.

Okay, I'm going to cheat on the last two (actually, three) and share a couple novels-in-verse that are on my TBR pile mountain mountain chain:


9.  Two Girls Staring at the Ceiling by Lucy Frank—This novel about two very different girls who share an illness and a hospital room sounds intriguing.


10.  Witness by Karen Hesse—After Out of the Dust, I'm definitely up for another Hesse book.  This one is about a small town in Vermont and how it changes when the Ku Klux Klan moves in.  Set in 1924, it's another historical novel-in-verse, a subgenre I usually enjoy.

11.  Sonya Sones—I have several of this author's novels-in-verse on my TBR list.  I'm intrigued by Saving Red; One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies; and Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy.

There you have it.  What do you think of my list?  Have you read any of these?  What are your favorite books-in-verse?  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor.

Happy TTT!  

Friday, September 09, 2016

Sweet, Entertaining Romance Another Charmer From Jennifer Moore (With a Giveaway!)

(Image from Amazon)

Although Diana Snow is an orphan of little consequence, her position as a chaperone to a wealthy young lady ensures she's exposed regularly to the finest of London society.  And there's nothing she abhors more than exposure.  She keeps her real emotions, her true self, concealed behind a polite mask at all times.  No matter how much the fashionable women sneer at her, Diana refuses to let their mockery penetrate her hard shell.  Her only desire is to do her job and do it well.  

While accompanying her charge on a visit to Greece, Diana has a chance encounter with a handsome stranger.  She's shocked at the attention Alexandros Metaxas pays her.  It's almost as if he's ... interested.  The connection she feels to the mysterious stranger makes her uncharacteristically bold.  When she spies Alexandros creeping around Corfu in the dark, she follows him.  Her foolish act has devastating results.  Captured by the most notorious pirates in the Mediterranean, she's flung into a dangerous adventure in a place ruled by conflict and curses.  

As Diana struggles to find her place in her colorful prison, she draws ever closer to handsome Alexandros.  Can their romance bloom in such an unlikely situation?  Will the tentative couple survive long enough to find out?  When push comes to shove, will Diana have the courage to break out of her shell and decide where—and with whom—she truly belongs?

Like Jennifer Moore's other Regency romances, her newest stars a brave heroine finding adventure and love in a foreign land.  Neither Diana nor Alexandros are terribly complex characters, but their journey toward Happily Ever After is entertaining nonetheless.  Both are sympathetic, likable, and brave—it's impossible not to root for their success.  Although the action sags a bit in the middle of A Place for Miss Snow, there's enough going on to keep the reader interested.  The novel is hardly a page turner, but it's a sweet, charming story that's clean and compelling enough.  I've enjoyed all the books I've read by Jennifer Moore; this one is no exception.  If you like romantic Regency love stories infused with interesting historical tidbits, you'll find plenty to love about A Place for Miss Snow.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Jennifer Moore's other novels, including Lady Emma's Campaign; Lady Helen Finds Her Song; and Simply Anna)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of A Place for Miss Snow from the generous folks at Covenant in exchange for my participation in the book's blog tour.  Thank you!

--

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Easy Breezy Summer Romance a Warm, Fun Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Running a beachside taco stand gives Sophie Newton a front-row seat from which to view other people's happiness.  From the newlyweds who coo at each other over carne asada to the exuberant families sampling homemade salsa to sun-kissed teenagers flirting over fish tacos—it gets a little nauseating for a 28-year-old woman who hasn't quite gotten over a bitter break-up nine months ago.  The accusation her ex-fiancé flung at her ("You're already married to your taco stand!") might be true, but that doesn't mean The Sandy Tortilla is all Sophie wants out of life.

When her teenage employees flake on her at the worst possible time, Sophie finds herself desperate for an extra set of hands at the taco stand.  She ropes in a gorgeous stranger, offering Montgomery "Mont" Winters more money than she can afford to if he'll promise to help out for a few weeks.  Intrigued by both the cash and his pretty new boss, Mont agrees.  
It soon becomes obvious that the jalapeños aren't the only thing that's hot at The Sandy Tortilla.  But as the relationship between Sophie and Mont heats up, both began to doubt it can really work.  Mont's an up-and-coming movie star with an unpredictable schedule and, as one man has already pointed out, Sophie's more than a little tied to her booming beachside business.  Mont's a spontaneous free-wheeler who follows his heart; Sophie's a planner who lives by her lists.  Can two such opposite people make a lasting relationship out of their sizzling summer romance?  Or will it endure only until summer ends?

Perhaps best known for her YA books, Elana Johnson also pens romance novels for an older crowd.  Until Summer Ends, an easy, breezy story of sun and surf and unexpected love, is her newest.  It's a fun read with a warm, enchanting setting populated by characters who are engaging, though not terribly complex.  The plot's as predictable as the sunrise, but it's still fun to see Sophie and Mont fight for their Happily Ever After.  Yeah, they're both kind of shallow, yeah Mont's "passion" for being an actor doesn't feel very authentic, and yeah, the whole book's pretty cliché.  Still.  Bottom line?  I enjoyed this one, even if I wasn't blown away by it.  If you're looking for a light, sexy summer sizzler, definitely give it a go.

Bonus:  To celebrate the release of Until Summer Ends, the author is giving away a Kindle Paperwhite.  Click here to enter.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen and The Distance Between Us by Kasie West)

Grade:

If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for sexual innuendo and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a copy of Until Summer Ends from the author in exchange for participating in the book's blog tour.  Thank you!

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Grim, Gritty Murder Mystery a Compelling Debut

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"'I think there's too many of us people and we're too close together and we're turning on each other like rats in the gutter.  We're in the biggest city in the world, Day, and I think it's trying to get rid of us'" (176).

The grimy streets of Victorian London teem with criminal activity, from the petty thefts of starving urchins to the enslavement of desperate women to the vicious unsolved killings of Jack the Ripper.  Considering the always-rising tide of violence that plagues the city, the number of men assigned to combat it is laughable.  Only twelve detectives—The Murder Squad—investigate London's most serious crimes.  Severely overworked and chronically underpaid, their shameful solve rate guarantees they are met with derision everywhere they turn.  Wading through the city's hellish underbelly to flush out murderers and monsters is a job rife with danger, devoid of glamour.  It's not a career to which most people would aspire.  

Detective Inspector Walter Day is not most people.  Having worked as a constable in Devon for the last four years, he has no actual detecting experience.  And yet, the idealistic newbie is working the murder of the Squad's own Inspector Christian Little.  The detective's odd and gruesome murder raises a million questions, few answers.  Is Day up to the task of finding Little's sadistic killer?  As more policemen end up dead, the case grows more complex—and deadly.  Day must solve it before his own dead body ends up stuffed into a steamer trunk.  He has little time to prove himself against a masterful murderer ... can he do it in time to save his colleagues and himself?

The Yard, Alex Grecian's debut novel and the first installment in a gritty crime series, brings 19th Century London to life in all its stinking, sleazy, squalid glory.  The story, naturally, echoes the tone of its setting.  Although Day is a likable and admirable man, the sewage in which he slops every day makes his tale a grim one.  Compelling, yes, but also depressing.  Nevertheless, The Yard is an engrossing, atmospheric mystery from which I had a hard time looking away.  I especially liked the interludes that provided needed backstory without interrupting the forward push of the plot.  Intriguing characters and sharp prose added even more to this surprising, satisfying novel.  I enjoyed it overall and will definitely be grabbing its sequels off the library shelves sometime soon.  

(Readalikes: I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Monday, September 05, 2016

Scent-Soaked Story a Long, Dull Slog

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

For centuries, the Rossini women have been some of Europe's most sought-after perfumiers.  With their almost otherworldly ability to create scents perfect for their wearers, the Rossinis' abilities have always been in high demand.  So much so that the family business has become more than a mere vocation; it's turned into an obsession.  After a chaotic childhood centered around the all-consuming creation of perfume, 28-year-old Elena wants nothing to do with her aromatic heritage.  So what if she's been "blessed" with the ability to identify the ingredients in a perfume by scent alone?  She's more than just a nose and she wants more than the lonely, haunted lives her mother and grandmother led.

When Elena walks in on her cheating fiancé, her well-crafted future starts to crumble before her eyes.  At loose ends, she doesn't know what to do with herself.  When her best friend suggests starting over in Paris, Elena goes.  Reluctantly.  Although her sales job in a luxurious perfume house is less than satisfactory, she loves her apartment and is intrigued by her mysterious neighbor, a handsome rose breeder.  The longer she's surrounded by the tantalizing scents that take her back to her childhood, the more Elena finds herself drawn back in the world of perfume.  Like her grandmother before her, Elena longs to discover the secret scent combination that first made her family famous.  When her own obsession starts to take over, Elena must take a hard look at herself, her family, and the future she really wants.

Comparisons to Joanne Harris' Chocolat are what drew me to The Secret Ways of Perfume, a debut novel by Italian author Cristina Caboni.  I was expecting a similar set-up— a rich, atmospheric setting; an enchanting heroine; and a storyline that kept me reading.  Did I get it?  Not exactly.  I don't know if something was lost in translation (I believe The Secret Ways of Perfume was originally published in Italian) or if perfume just doesn't excite me like chocolate does, but I really struggled to finish this book.  Without a lot of plot to keep it going, the story drags, creeping along in slow-slow motion.  The characters are too cliché to be interesting.  Caboni's flat prose doesn't help matters—relying more on tell than show, her storytelling feels lifeless and dull.  I found some of the perfume history/technique intriguing, but not compelling enough to carry the story.  In the end, I slogged through the novel only because I had committed to reviewing it.  If I had picked The Secret Ways of Perfume up at the library, I wouldn't have bothered reading past the first chapter.  

(Readalikes:  The premise is similar to Chocolat by Joanne Harris, but that's pretty much where the similarities end, in my opinion.)

Grade:



If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), and mild sexual content/innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Secret Ways of Perfume from the generous folks at Berkley/NAL, a division of Penguin.  Thank you!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Raw, Real Medical Memoir Compulsively Readable. Really.

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

From a young age, Emily Wing felt different from the kids around her.  Her emotions seemed out-of-whack, making her feel alternately aggressive, angry, anxious, lonely, and sad.  Impulsive behavior and frequent dizziness also plagued the little girl.  Starting therapy at six helped a little.  Mostly, though, she found solace only in writing stories.  "Words never let me down," she recalls.  "With words, I never let myself down" (62).  A near-fatal accident at 12 led to a discovery that went a long way toward explaining Emily's feelings of otherness—doctors found a tumor the size of a grapefruit growing at the base of her skull.  This "miracle" find changed the life of pre-teen Emily, who was determined to overcome the lingering, debilitating effects of the brain tumor to fulfill her dream of becoming a successful author.

In the fickle world of YA lit, memoirs are a rare breed.  Cruise the teen shelves at the library or bookstore and you'll find only a few.  That's one of the reasons All Better Now, a new memoir by YA novelist Emily Wing Smith is so refreshing.  It's unique, yes, but it's also honest, funny, heartbreaking, and hopeful.  A tale like this could so easily veer into a sappy, platitude-filled story; it doesn't.  It's uplifting while remaining both raw and real.  Teens, especially, will appreciate Smith's forthrightness.  No matter their age or experience, readers' hearts will go out to young Emily, an entirely empathetic heroine with a wholly compelling story.  All Better Now is not the kind of book I usually describe as compulsively readable, but in this case, it's true.  I devoured it in one sitting.  Hand this one to teens—or anyone, really—who enjoys a quick, enlightening read that will make them look at the people around them with new eyes and a more compassionate heart. 

(Readalikes:  Reminded me of Small Steps by Peg Kehret and This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Grace Earl)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, non-graphic mention of mature subjects (prostitution, sex, child molestation, male anatomy, etc.)

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of All Better Now from Amazon using a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
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