Every Day: A Book Review

Title: Every Day

Author: David Levithan

Publisher: Ember

Copyright Date: 2012

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For as long as A can remember he’s woken up every morning in a different body. He’s almost always in Maryland, but that’s his only constant. When he opens his eyes in the morning he must examine the body that will be his host until midnight. Some days that body is male and other days it’s female. A must learn about the life he is taking on as quickly as possible. Whose body is this? What are they like? Who do they care about? He must access his host to answer these questions, but the host must never know he was there.

Over time A has learned to set his own rules. When he borrows a body he tries to return it without having left a trace. He leaves clues to the day for the person when they return, so he can float to another body as if nothing ever happened.

But he’s made two mistakes: Nathan remembers being A’s host and A has fallen in love with Rhiannon.

Nathan has gone public with descriptions of “being possessed by the devil.” While much of the world thinks he has lost his mind, A is curious why Nathan can remember when no one else can.

After meeting Rhiannon A struggles with telling her the truth. For weeks he visits her in many different bodies, but will she be able to accept him? Can she love someone who changes like he does?

Longing for attachment causes A to break some of the rules that have guided his existence. And without those rules–who is A?

This is what love does: It makes you want to rewrite the world. It makes you want to choose the characters, build the scenery, guide the plot. The person you love sits across from you, and you want to do everything in your power to make it possible, endlessly possible. And when it’s just the two of you, alone in a room, you can pretend that this is how it is, this is how it will be.” (Page 175)

This novel is a touching, thought provoking tale that paints a portrait of one of humanity’s basic desires: to belong. The protagonist abandons everything and risks the safety of his rule book to find his true identity.

As the first book in a series there are some loose ends left at the end of the book, but overall the author did a great job raising questions that hook the reader for the next two installments Another Day and Some Day. The plot is very unique and I was intrigued to find that it was developed based on a conversation that the author had with John Green.

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The Ameri Brit Mom

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The First Phone Call From Heaven: A Book Review

Title: The First Phone Call From Heaven

Author: Mitch Albom

Publisher: Harper

Copyright Date: 2013

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The city of Coldwater became host to a phenomenon.

For weeks, members of their community received phone calls from their deceased relatives. Katharine was the first to admit at church that she spoke regularly to her sister who had died a couple of years ago. As more phone calls came in, the town became the scene of a media frenzy complete with hundreds of people hoping to connect with their own lost loved ones.

While locals and visitors waited for their phones to ring, Sully Harding, a former pilot, was released from prison. He returned to town full of cynicism and the motivation to prove these miracles false.

As he researches the phone calls and those who have received them he learns more about the tragic day that landed him in prison and his wife’s ashes in an urn. He fights the spirit of faith that has overtaken the town and seeks to uncover the truth behind these unorthodox events in Coldwater.

“Fear is how you lose your life…a little bit at a time…What we give to fear, we take away from…faith.” (Page 117)

Full of poetic language and critical lessons this novel is one of the best I’ve read in a while. I have not read anything by Mitch Albom in ten years and now I feel as though I’ve been missing out. This emotional tale of the extent of the relationships we form gripped my heart at just the right time in my life. I finished this book with a renewed faith in humanity and strengthened faith in the Lord. This is a feel-good read that begs the reader to examine their beliefs about heaven and life after death.

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The Ameri Brit Mom

 

The Way of Abundance: A Book Review

Title: The Way of Abundance

Author: Ann Voskamp

Publisher: Zondervan

Copyright Date: 2018

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For the past sixty days I have journeyed through the pages of this devotional study on what it means to live a deeply meaningful life. Each of those days I opened the pages of encouragement and allowed the scriptures and wisdom of the author break my already broken heart a little more.

I’ve learned so much truth in this study. Things like:

-abundance is only achieved through the breaking and giving away of the heart

-giving away the heart helps the heart to heal

-a field must be broken before a farmer plants the seeds–likewise, we must be broken before we can experience growth

-helping others helps our own wounds

-the scars in our lives and on our hearts are just proof of the fact we have loved

I started reading this book while in a desperate state. The scars on my heart were fresh and bleeding, but the words of Ann Voskamp helped to bring me to a place of abundance. Living broken is counter-cultural. We live in a day where the world tells us to seek comfort, but a life of abundance is about risks. It’s about giving up pieces of yourself so you can experience what is to be put back together by God.

Of all the books I’ve read recently this one has made the most profound difference in my life. It has changed the way I look at turmoil and increased my desire to love everyone at all times.

Ann Voskamp has a way with words. And as the wife of a farmer she draws unique parallels between our hearts and the fields that she helps cultivate every day. Abundance takes work. A farmer can’t just sit back and expect that his seeds will yield crops. But, if he is willing to give himself to the promise of the field he will see the fruits of his labor realized.

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The Ameri Brit Mom

One Was Lost: A Book Review

Title: One Was Lost

Author: Natalie D. Richards

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Copyright Date: 2016

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When Sera pictured her senior field trip she never imagined that she may never make it home. Her school required her to choose a service project and a weekend in the woods away from Lucas seemed like a perfect choice…until he showed up.

A flood divides the school group and Sera’s teacher, Mr. Walker, instructs her team to set up camp for the night in the middle of the woods.

The next morning, Sera and three other classmates awake to a ransacked campsite. Their belongings are gone, their memories wiped, and their wrists have large labels scrawled across them like tattoos. They soon learn that Mr. Walker has been drugged and as they try to reach the rest of the group they learn that someone dangerous is hunting them.

But, why?

As they all question each other’s innocence each of the classmates gets to know the other on a deeper level. Those that Sera thought she’d known for years she gets to see in a new light. In the flooded woods she learns that the labels she’d placed on each one while in high school was unfair.

Jude is deceptive. Emily is damaged. Lucas is dangerous. Sera is darling.

Will the clues left behind help the quarry find their hunter before it is too late?

Over the past year I’ve read almost every book by Natalie D. Richards. I did a review of Gone Too Far and while on maternity leave I read We All Fall Down. Next, on my Natalie D. Richards list is Six Months Later.

Not only is she a great YA author, but she is actually from Columbus too and we both belong to the same SCBWI group out of Upper Arlington, Ohio. One day I hope to meet her at a gathering and learn from her writerly wisdom.

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The Ameri Brit Mom

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Book Review

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing

Copyright Date: 2008

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London is recovering after the war and Juliet Ashton is looking to change direction in her writing career. She found success writing inspirational pieces during one of the darkest times of British history. Fate would have it that just as she began her search for a book idea that she received a letter from a man who found her address written in a secondhand book. Dawsey Adams lived on the English Channel island of Guernsey which suffered under German occupation in World War II.

Their correspondence piques Juliet’s interest. Dawsey tells of the restrictions placed on the residents of the island and the small literary society formed as a result. Desperate for companionship a group of islanders gathered weekly to share food, drinks, and books. And it was at these meetings that his dear friend, Elizabeth McKenna shone brightly.

The war took so many things from the islanders: wealth, dignity, safety, food, jobs, and worst of all Elizabeth McKenna. Their brave friend was shipped off to the continent leaving behind her daughter whom the society members took upon themselves to raise. Desperate to reunite with their missing member the rest of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie society enlist the help of their newfound friend, Miss Ashton.

The letters begin to flood in to Juliet Ashton and before long she commits to visiting her pen pals to witness the devastation herself. She left behind her agent, boyfriend, and apartment to pursue her inspiration on Guernsey.

I first heard of this book over the summer while in England. A movie based on this novel was released recently and every bookstore shelved this title with their best sellers. Once I returned to the states I started to see the book everywhere. Online people were talking about it as well. And then Netflix released the movie in America.

I must say that after watching the movie this was one of those rare cases where I preferred the movie to the book. I did enjoy the book, but I found the format in which it was written to be a little less exciting than the cinematic interpretation. It is written in letter form. The pro–it’s a quick read. The con–because most of the story is a retelling of events from different character perspectives it lacks some suspense and is relatively limited in dialogue. I highly recommend this novel for many reasons, but I do think the movie warrants a viewing after the fact. Major differences do occur between the two, but I found the film enjoyable and I was able to understand the logic behind most of the changes to the plot and characters.

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The Ameri Brit Mom

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: A Book Review

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic Inc)

Copyright Date: 2016

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I finally ticked a book off of my to-read list in Goodreads that I’ve put off for two years!

Being a fan of the Harry Potter series and also being married to a man who grew up during the series’ prime I was keen to get a hold of this screenplay. For this book legendary author, J.K. Rowling, teamed up with writers from London’s West End theater to create a new installment in the Harry Potter story, this time nineteen years after the conclusion of the Hogwarts War.

Harry and Ginny Potter are parents to James, Albus, and Lily who are all pupils or soon to be at Hogwarts. Albus, the middle child, has always felt like a misfit in his own family. Growing up in the shadow of his father has Albus feeling like a constant failure. After being sorted into the house of Slytherin, Harry makes it even more clear that he has little in common with Albus. Luckily, Albus makes friends with another troubled child at school, Scorpius Malfoy. Together, the two boys set out to write their own destinies as opposed to accepting the one’s determined by their birthrights.

At the Ministry of Magic, Harry and Hermione uncover a time-turner which threatens all that they know to be truth. In the wrong hands, a time-turner can rewrite history. They go to great lengths to protect their world from the effects of time travel, but forces in their midst threaten that security. Albus and Scorpius learn of this magic and decide to use it to fulfill their own purposes. Caught in a web of the past, Albus and Scorpius must combat dark magic not unlike the quests of their fathers.

At first, I struggled with Harry Potter’s parenting techniques. His harsh demeanor toward the son he struggled to relate to seemed as though he had learned nothing from his own estranged upbringing. I hoped to find Harry fostering a relationship with his own children that opposed the treatment he received from his uncle. Nonetheless, I can imagine it to be a true struggle for parents when they don’t connect with their children easily. While reading I needed to reference earlier books (since it had been such a long time) when it came to some of the spells and magic used in this book. I also didn’t love the fact that this book is actually just a copy of the script for a stage performance. I found that stage directions and speaker switches threw off my immersion in the story. I know that much of that is necessary to perform a play, but I wanted to lose myself in this book the way I did the novels of my childhood.

All of us who love Harry Potter have waited a long time to return to the wizarding world. To be back in the halls of Hogwarts made me feel like a kid again. I have missed the moving staircases, enchanted portraits, and lively Quidditch matches. Being able to catch up on the lives of the characters I grew up alongside really made this tale nostalgic.

I would love to see J.K. Rowling write more about Albus Potter in the future!

The Ameri Brit Mom

Turtles All the Way Down: Book Review

Title: Turtles All The Way Down

Author: John Green

Publisher: Dutton Books

Copyright Date: 2017

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“You remember your first love because they show you, prove to you, that you can love and be loved, that nothing in this world is deserved except for love, that love is both how you become a person, and why.” (Green 283)

Aza Holmes had enough trouble trying to get through high school and battling her own anxious thoughts without the drama of a missing billionaire to complicate things. Just before he was arrested, Russell Pickett went missing. He left behind a fortune, an exotic pet, and two sons (and he ranked their importance in that order.)

With a hundred thousand dollars on the line, Aza’s best friend, Daisy, is convinced that the two can solve the mystery. Daisy enlists the help of Aza because she used to be friends with the billionaire’s son, Davis, back when they spent their summers together at “Sad Camp.”

After reconnecting with Davis Pickett, Aza learns that wealth isn’t everything. Davis grew up fed by a silver spoon yet he experienced grief and loneliness akin to her own. As the two grow closer Davis begins to break down the wall of anxiety that Aza has built around herself. Together with her closest friends, Aza focused on Russell Pickett’s disappearance while also working through her internal demons.

Lately, some of my favorite books have been based on mental illness. When We Collided by Emery Lord and Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley were phenomenal books that dove into issues of anxiety, depression, and grief in an honest way. I felt like John Green also did a good job covering topics that teens wrestle with in an authentic light. In the Acknowledgements at the end of the book he provided resources for those struggling with mental health and admitted to his own struggles that were reflected in Aza’s character.

Mental illness has been a trending topic both in writing and the media. With recent suicides in Hollywood a lot of energy has been focused on getting people the help that they need. As someone with diagnosed anxiety, I found myself relating to Aza on some level while also being inspired to push past my fears in order to avoid situations she faced.

I’m a fan of John Green. I liked The Fault In Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns. In my Honors History classes, I occasionally show clips from his Crash Course Youtube channel where John Green and his brother explain eras of history in their own quirky way. When I first started teaching, his books were all the rage, but with his movie deals and Youtube Channel it’s been a while since he released a book. Last year when this book came out I added it to the top of my To-Read list on Goodreads. Thankfully, I finally had the opportunity to read this one. It was a quick read, and totally worth every minute. At times, the main character really annoyed me, but it helped me to see what anxiety can be like for the people surrounded by it. Mental illness affects far more than just your mind. Relationships feel the tremors and fallout associated with the internal battles we all face.

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The Ameri Brit Mom

A Piece of the World: A Book Review

Title: A Piece of the World

Author: Christina Baker Kline

Publisher: William Morrow

Copyright Date: 2017

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My first ever published book review was on The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Since then, I’ve awaited a new novel by this spectacular author who is known for weaving narrative into non-fiction stories. In A Piece of the World, Christina Baker Kline writes a fictional account of the woman pictured in Andy Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World. Although the story itself is a novel, much research went into finding the facts and spirit behind that original painting.

Christina Olson lived on her family homestead in New England along with her brother Alvaro. Too weak to live on her own due to a physical ailment, Christina tried not to depend too heavily on any person. On one side, her family came from the Hawthorn line, notorious for her ancestor’s role in the convicting of witches in Salem. On the other side, she traced back to a poor Swedish family. The family farm had been an heirloom for many generations, and when her other brothers leave to create their own lives they leave their invalid sister and her closest brother to continue the work of the self-sufficient home.

A life of washing, making, and sustaining is all Christina knew until one man shows up and offers her promises. His grand words and attention conjure up fantasies of a normal life outside of the white washed walls of the family home. But, Christina’s own stubbornness becomes her worst enemy.

After neglecting the help and well wishes of others, Christina Olson reserved herself to life as a spinster on the farm where cats, dishes, and sewing are all she needed. She let opportunities slip through her fingers and turned down any offers to help her physical condition. Years go by where she and Alvaro slave away each day to maintain the home until a young visitor and her artist boyfriend show up on the doorstep. The artist wanted to paint her home.

The artist became a summer fixture in the Olson home spending hours in an upper room capturing life on the farm. And it is in the final revealing of years of work that Christina finally sees and accepts that this home is her entire world.

It was there that she learned to walk, love, and survive. What else could she possibly need?

This story was very well written and even though it’s about a woman who rarely leaves her home it is filled with twists and drama that hook the reader. Having recently visited New England I also enjoyed getting caught up in the vivid scenes and settings painted by the words of the author.

The Ameri Brit Mom

Female of the Species: A Book Review

Title: The Female of the Species

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Copyright Date: 2016

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Mindy McGinnis draws you immediately into the action of this novel with the hook, “This is how I kill someone.”

Alex Craft’s sister was murdered, and ever since Alex has struggled to feel anything but numb. Withdrawn from the rest of humanity, Alex finds herself reluctant to log hours for a senior project at the local animal shelter. While working at the shelter, Alex meets Peekay, the Pastor’s daughter, who helps Alex open up little by little. A friendship forms between the two, and Alex finds herself thrust back into social interactions. But there was a reason she hid away. She’s protecting those around her.

The death of her sister not only stole her emotions, but also created an instinct. That instinct pulls Alex toward revenge and violence. As Alex goes from another face in the crowd to part of the in-crowd it becomes more of a challenge to keep her beast at bay. Falling in love also proves to be just as dangerous as she feared.

Told from three perspectives this novel gives the reader a glimpse into life of a pastor’s kid who loves to get drunk and frisky, a jock who falls in love with Alex, and a female vigilante out to avenge her sister’s murder.

I liked to envision Alex Craft as a young, female version of Dexter from the television series. She’s odd. People don’t really know the real Alex. Oh, and in her spare time she kills the bad guys that the cops let get away.

I’m a fan of anything Mindy McGinnis. After hosting her at my school, teaching her novel Not a Drop to Drink in my classroom, and encountering her several times in my SCBWI group I have mad respect for her as an author. This book is very well written, but I caution readers of her other works that this one is written for a much more mature readership. From the outset, she makes it clear that the intended audience should be okay with vivid scenes of violence. Additionally, she covers topics like rape, sex, and drugs throughout the course of Alex’s story.

Other books I’ve reviewed by McGinnis include: Not a Drop to Drink and A Madness So Discreet.

“The female of the species is more deadly than the male.”-Rudyard Kipling

The Ameri Brit Mom

Hope Unfolding: A Book Review

Title: Hope Unfolding

Author: Becky Thompson

Publisher: WaterBrook

Copyright Date: 2016

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I was introduced to this book while visiting a Mother’s cLife group at my church. As I sat around and listened to the way the women reacted to the book I decided that night I had to get my own copy. I listened as Mom’s fessed up about their own shortcomings, and I was brought to tears by the way they united together in support for the struggles that mothers often face.

Somewhere down the line our culture decided it wasn’t okay to talk about how difficult and demanding being a mother actually is. Many new moms find themselves aching to talk about the hard times, but instead they paint on a smile and act like motherhood is the easiest role they’ve ever played.

Becky Thompson calls out all those bluffs.

With chapter titles like A Fight for Joy, Is It Just Me?, Real Life Looks Lived In, and Don’t Run Her Race, Thompson brings a voice to some of the fears that society silences within moms.

As I read through this book I experienced breakthroughs in my own life. I never realized that certain things I do as a mother are indicative of living in fear. And as I began to throw off those weights I found myself joining Thompson in prayer. I want to see what parenting looks like when we join together as mothers and throw off all the fears. Fears of weakness. Fears of insignificance. Fears of comparison. Fears of not measuring up to impossible standards.

One thing that set this book apart from others is the refreshing format that Thompson uses. Each chapter seems more like a conversation than a lesson. Within the pages the author explains how she learned from her own life experiences (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and then she provides you an opportunity to explore your own life and interact with the text.

Whether new to motherhood or years into the gig this book contains truth you need to hear!

The Ameri Brit Mom