Jessica's books

The One and Only Ivan
Pollyanna
Revolutionary War on Wednesday
Leprechaun in Late Winter
Ella Enchanted
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Plain Murder
Gone-Away Lake
Circling the Sun
Maggie and Max
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
The Night Sister
Tuck Everlasting
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Bedknob and Broomstick
Mister Monday
Alice Through the Looking Glass
The Birchbark House
The Hobbit
The Witch's Daughter


Jessica's favorite books »

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Review: Caitlyn's Christmas Wish by Laura L. Walker

Caitlyn's Christmas Wish 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): 
 Just when former model and single mother Caitlyn Drevier Reel has finally put her life on track after a divorce and six-month stint in rehab, she is surprised to receive an invitation from her ex-in-laws to spend Christmas with the family. After all, she reasons, her ex-husband Grant is constantly on the road with his band and it's only fair to allow them to get to know her young son, Brody. What Caitlyn isn't prepared for, however, is the spark of attraction she feels toward Ridge, Grant's older brother, or the sense of belonging to their wonderful family once again. Ridge, who is recovering from his own personal heartache, seems to feel the same about her. As they work together to ensure the success of the Winter Festival his parents have organized for their small Wyoming town, Caitlyn begins to envision a bright future. But will Grant's unexpected arrival keep her Christmas wish from coming true? This inspirational novella will have you grabbing a cup of hot cocoa as you get in the holiday mood.

My Thoughts: 

Caitlyn's Christmas Wish is a short, sweet, Christmas story that leaves you feeling good when you finish it.  

Caitlyn is a former model who was once married to a famous country singer, Grant.  Caitlyn divorced Grant when she found out she was pregnant because Grant was selfish and addicted to drugs.  Caitlyn had her own problems with eating disorders and Grant's family supported her while she went to a rehab center.  Now Grant's family has asked Caitlyn to spend Christmas with them.  They want to see their eight-month old grandson, Brody and they don't expect that Grant will be around because, well, he never comes home for the holidays. 

Caitlyn takes the family up on their offer and heads to the town where Grant's father is the mayor.  Grant's family is in the middle of a Christmas festival that lasts a few days so Ridge, Grant's brother, is the one who meets up with Caitlyn when she arrives.  There is an immediate spark between the two and Ridge, although a little awkward with Brody, seems to enjoy him.  

Of course, a couple days later, Grant surprisingly shows up.  Grant is having some issues and needs to get back together with Caitlyn to solve those issues.  Caitlyn has (very quickly) fallen in love with Ridge and has no desire to get back together with Grant.  The family goes through some conflicts but the story ends leaving you feeling good and in the Christmas mood.

I really liked Caitlyn and Ridge.  This book is such a short and fast read that there had to be an instant attraction between Ridge and Caitlyn so I wasn't too annoyed with that like I usually am with instant romances.  Grant was a very childish and immature man that annoyed every part of me.  

Charles and Jacinda are Grant and Ridge's parents and I really liked how they put Grant in his place several times.  He is their son and they love him but they had no problem telling him that he was wrong in the past and that he wasn't going to be allowed to act like the entitled brat that he was acting like.  

The story was very clean.  There was romance and kissing but no sex or foul language.  The Reel's are a religious family who believe that the birth of Jesus Christ is the reason for Christmas but it was pretty mild and not preachy at all.  

If you are looking for a feel good Christmas story that you can read quickly, because we all know how busy this time of year is, then pick up this book.  

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book Review: The Liar by Nora Roberts

The Liar 
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Shelby Foxworth lost her husband. Then she lost her illusions …

The man who took her from Tennessee to an exclusive Philadelphia suburb left her in crippling debt. He was an adulterer and a liar, and when Shelby tracks down his safe-deposit box, she finds multiple IDs. The man she loved wasn’t just dead. He never really existed.

Shelby takes her three-year-old daughter and heads south to seek comfort in her hometown, where she meets someone new: Griff Lott, a successful contractor. But her husband had secrets she has yet to discover. Even in this small town, surrounded by loved ones, danger is closer than she knows—and threatens Griff, as well. And an attempted murder is only the beginning …
 
My Thoughts:
I have always loved Nora Roberts.  Her books are always a fun read that doesn't make you think too much but full of suspense and anticipation.  The Liar is no different.  Although I had the ending figured out almost from the first chapter, I was still in for a few surprises.
Shelby is from a small town in Tennessee.  She meets Richard and runs away with him to get married and live a life of luxury...or so she thinks.  Shelby travels the world with Richard but once she gets pregnant, Richard is distant and it is obvious he doesn't want a child.  He leaves Shelby and their daughter often for business trips.  The one trip they were supposed to take with Richard, they end up staying home because of a sick child, and Richard gets into a tragic accident.  His body is lost at sea and Shelby is left a single mother with an unimaginable debt to pay off.  It seems Richard was not at all what he said.  Their whole life was a sham.
Shelby and her daughter, Callie, head back home to the hills of Tennessee.  There she is welcomed by her family and most of the town.  When some strange people show up in town and some even stranger things start to happen, Shelby knows that there is something more going on with Richard's lies and that she may very well be in danger.
I had the ending figured out pretty much from the beginning so that was a little disappointing but the book still kept me interested and it was such an easy read.  I loved Shelby and her mom and grandmother.  Nora Roberts described the town much like what I would expect from a small southern town (think Steel Magnolias) with the beauty shop gossip and the "second runner-up" beauty queen that still thinks she runs the town.  
There were a couple issues I had with the story like the way the law enforcement was portrayed. I come from a family in law enforcement and there is no way that some of the stuff that Forrest (Shelby's deputy brother) did would fly in any department that I know.   I was not bothered by the instant romance between Shelby and Griff because that isn't unusual in a Nora Roberts book but the way they talk to each other sometimes drives me insane.  "I just met you but I am in love with you and we will date/have sex/get married because I say so" dialogue is just annoying.  Shelby's family was almost perfect and it was so easy for her to just jump back into life in her town.  She found not one but two jobs that were just perfect for her and, aside from one "mean girl" character, everyone forgave her for running off and it was just like she never left.  Even her best friend, who was deeply hurt, had a quick talk with Shelby, said she was going to be hurt for a little bit and then seemed to forget about it all.  
If you want an fun, easy, slightly suspenseful and romantic read then you will like this book.  If you are looking for a mystery with an unpredictable ending, you will be disappointed in this one.  I enjoyed it but it definitely won't at the top of my favorite 2016 reads.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2017 Reading Challenges

I have decided that I really need to make more time to read again.  My kids are getting older and with that comes more activities that I am required to drive them around to plus all the other stuff I do.  I have definitely been neglecting my reading and so I hope having some challenges helps me get back into it again!  My other goal is to get my TBR pile down! 

My first challenge is hosted by My Reader's Block:

 
Since I don't want to set myself up for failure, I am going to go with the Pike's Peak option of reading 12 books off my TBR pile.  They will be:

1.  Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
2.  The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
3.  Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
4.  Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
5.  Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
6.  All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
7.  Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
8.  The Collector by Nora Roberts
9.  The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
10.  Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
11.  Unbelievable (Pretty Little Liars #4) by Sara Shepard
12.  Sanctuary Bay by Laura Burns and Melinda Metz

My next challenge is hosted by Book Dragon's Lair:  
 
If someone tells me I can't or shouldn't read a book, you can pretty much bet that I will read it.  I homeschool my kids so I also have them read many "banned" books for their literature.  I am  going to read between 2-6 books.  I am are Creeping. You're burning with a low flame and spreading slowly.

Here are the books that I plan to read:

1.  Animal Farm by George 
2.  Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
5.The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6.  Paper Towns by John Green

My last challenge is hosted by Opinions of a Wolf:
 

I am going to go with the annual option and commit to reading 4 books (the Acquainted option).  The books I will be reading are:

1.  Paperweight by Meg Haston (eating disorders/suicide)
2. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (self-injury)
3.  Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (anorexia)
4. Sickened:  The True Story of a Lost Childhood by Julie Gregory

These are all my challenges for 2017.  Wish me luck!

Teaser Tuesday: Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.

Teaser Tuesday | BooksAndABeat.com
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
 BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Beautiful AfflictionIt's September, but summer is still in full swing.  No chill in the air, no falling leaves.  I can feel it, my heart beating, beating, beating against my chest and against his chest, beating and telling me no no no and at the same time the answer to the riddle, making me shrink with fear, yes, I will die young.
~pg. 149 of Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg 

Book Review: Beautiful Affliction by Lene Fogelberg

Beautiful Affliction 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Lene Fogelberg is dying—she is sure of it—but no doctor in Sweden, her home country, believes her. Love stories enfold her, with her husband, her two precious daughters, her enchanting surroundings, but the question she has carried in her heart since childhood—Will I die young?—is threatening all she holds dear, even her sanity. When her young family moves to the US, an answer, a diagnosis, is finally found: she is in the last stages of a fatal congenital heart disease. But is it too late? 

My Thoughts:

My friend emailed me last month with a request to review this book for a friend of hers.  I was so busy and told her that I wouldn't be able to do it for a little while and thought that was the end of it.  Luckily for me, my friend had her friend send me the book anyways.  I didn't really know anything about the book and I will be honest...when I received it I was not too excited to be reading a memoir.  They just aren't my usual read.  But I decided to give it a try since I told my friend I would and I am so very glad I did.  This story was amazing and had me from the very first page!

Lene Fogelberg has always known there was something wrong with her body.  She always felt that she would die young.  Her mother took her to a doctor when she was six and she was told she had a heart murmur but would never have to worry about it.  Being born and raised in Sweden, Lene didn't have the same health care system that we have here in the USA.  There were no well child exams every year or physicals for school.  Once the doctors told her she was okay, that was the end of it.

As Lene grows older, every breath is a struggle.  She tires easily and can't do what a normal kid or young adult can do.  She knows deep down that there is something wrong but she fights to make her body work for her.  She gets married and has two children.  She fights every day to be a good mom and a good wife but you can see the toll it takes on her.  

After she moves to the US with her family, she finally gets the answers that she seeks.  The answers are frightening but Lene will do what it takes to be strong and make it for her family.

This book was so beautifully written.  You could feel Lene's helplessness and depression as she was told over and over that she was fine and there was nothing wrong with her.  This book was so riveting that it had me up into the wee hours of the night reading because I simply couldn't put it down.  I had to know how Lene was going to survive.  She is such a strong woman and I was simply amazed at her perseverance.    

This book will make you believe in miracles.  It will restore some faith in humanity.  It will make you want to send it to everyone you know to read.  It was really just that good!  

A HUGE thank you goes out to my friend Marie and her friend, Angelica, for sending me this book for review.  It will forever have a place on my bookshelf.








 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Book Review: The Unsaid by Aaron Blaylock

The Unsaid 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Maggie’s job at the Department of Thoughts and Records in heaven is pretty simple. She is a spirit curator—an observer of human life who sorts and categorizes every unsaid thought. When Eric, her beholden, shows interest in the new girl at work, Maggie can’t help ignoring the rules to understand the wonders of mortality and love. But meddling in mortal affairs has consequences that Maggie couldn’t have ever imagined . . . 

My Thoughts:

This book was a great, feel good book that I totally wasn't expecting.   Maggie was a little annoying sometimes but I loved being in Eric's head and laughed many times at his sarcastic thoughts...mainly because I was thinking the same things!

Maggie is a spirit.  Her job is to categorize all of her beholden's thoughts until it is her turn to inhabit a body on Earth.  Maggie's beholden is Eric.  She is not supposed to get to involved in Eric's life.  Her job is strictly to watch his thoughts but after being in someone's head for twenty-some years, I imagine you would become pretty invested in their life.  

Eric works at a candy dispenser shop as in the IT department.  He is recovering from a bad breakup and just plodding through life.  He really doesn't enjoy his life or the people he works with.  That is, until he meets Lindsey, the new girl in the office.  Eric starts to get involved with Lindsey and everything is going well.  When Lindsey ends in a bad situation, Maggie ignores all the rules and "leaps" into Eric's head.  From there on, Eric and Maggie must work together.

This book was a very fast and fun read.  The book was clean with no sex or swearing which was very refreshing.  I was a little worried at first because I thought the first chapter was a little slow but as soon as you get into Eric's head, things pick up and then you don't want to put it down.  The ending was sweet and came full circle.  It left you wanting to be more positive in your life and with a good feeling.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: The Unsaid by Aaron Blaylock

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.
Teaser Tuesday | BooksAndABeat.com
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
 BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser is from The Unsaid by Aaron Blaylock. I just finished this book last night and thought it was so fun and cute and most definitely a feel good kind of book.  Here is my teaser:

The Unsaid"She did have a nice body though," Salmen remarked with a sneer.  Creep!
"All right," said Maggie.  "Punch him in the mouth."
Thank you.
~from page 145 of an ARC copy of  The Unsaid by Aaron Blaylock.    

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Teaser Tuesday: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books And A Beat.

Teaser Tuesday | BooksAndABeat
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
 BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Jurassic ParkThey all watched the screen in satisfaction.  The boat was definitely heading away from the shore. 
     "I guess the hard part's finished," Gennaro said.
     Grant shook his head.  "The hard part," he said, "is just beginning."
~page 364 of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Book Review: Perfect (Pretty Little Liars #3) by Sara Shepard

Perfect (Pretty Little Liars, #3) 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In Rosewood, Pennsylvania, four perfect-looking girls aren't nearly as perfect as they seem.

Aria can't resist her forbidden ex. Hanna is on the verge of losing her BFF. Emily is freaking out over a simple kiss. And Spencer can't keep her hands off anything that belongs to her sister.

Lucky me. I know these pretty little liars better than they know themselves. But it's hard keeping all of their secrets to myself. They better do as I say . . . or else!
 

My Thoughts:

My daughter and I watch the TV show and my daughter just recently devoured all 16 books so I decided I better read them too.  I read the first two last fall and just remembered I should actually finish the series.

I love that these books are on the shorter side, easy to read and so entertaining.  They don't require a lot of thought but it's easy to read one in a day or two and for both my daughter and me, they keep our attention through the whole book.

In the third book of the series, Aria is living with her boyfriend, Sean, because her mom has kicked her out after a little incident she had with her father's new girlfriend.  Aria still has feelings for Ezra though so things are quite complicated for her.

Spencer has started seeing her sister's psychiatrist and is remembering events from the last night that she saw Ali alive.  Spence also gets nominated for the Golden Orchid, a very prestigious award based on an economics report that she wrote....or did she?  Poor Spencer has to try to decide if she comes clean about the report but she is enjoying the attention so much.

Hanna and Mona have a little tiff and now Hanna is worried that Mona is going to move on without her.  She is trying her hardest to keep Mona in her good graces but finds it so stressful that she starts to eat a lot of junk food again.  When she starts chatting with Lucas, things get even harder for poor Hanna.

Emily is in all sorts of trouble after her parents find out that she has kissed a girl.  Now Emily has to decide is she can try to change for her parents or stand firm in who she is.

While these books are fun and easy to read, I find that they are sometimes a little over dramatic.   As a mother, I find it hard to believe that Aria's mother would kick her out of the house over something so dumb.  What Aria did was wrong but there is no way I would tell my teen to leave my house over it.  I would make her call and apologize but really...leave the house and not even worry about her or give her a call or anything?  Yeah, I'm not buying it.  

Emily's parents were over the top as well.  Okay, so you are shocked that your daughter is kissing another girl but to threaten her with reform or send her to her ultra religious aunt and uncle in Iowa?  These relatives supposedly make their sons run in the morning to get out any sexual tensions and keeping a list of sins daily is ridiculous...although I am sure there are those people out there.  

I am excited that we have all the books so I can finish up the series.  I haven't figured out who A is right now but my daughter says I won't be surprised so we will see!


 

Book Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas


Synopsis (from Goodreads):
It's Spring Break of senior year. Anna, her boyfriend Tate, her best friend Elise, and a few other close friends are off to a debaucherous trip to Aruba that promises to be the time of their lives. But when Elise is found brutally murdered, Anna finds herself trapped in a country not her own, fighting against vile and contemptuous accusations.

As Anna sets out to find her friend's killer; she discovers hard truths about her friendships, the slippery nature of truth, and the ache of young love.

As she awaits the judge's decree, it becomes clear that everyone around her thinks she is not just guilty, but dangerous. When the truth comes out, it is more shocking than one could ever imagine...

My Thoughts:
I devoured this book in one sitting!  It reminded me a little of the Amanda Knox case...teens out of the country, someone dies, dealing with a trial in a foreign country, etc.  Even though I predicted the "twist" at the end, it kept me second guessing myself the whole time.  

Anna and her friends are finishing up their senior year of high school.  They head to Aruba for Spring Break and party hard.  When they find that their leader, Elise, has been murdered, they are shocked.  When Anna is targeted as the suspect and has to fight to regain her freedom.  

The book is told from Anna's point of view.  She goes back and forth between the present, with her being in jail and the trial, to the past, where you get a look at how Elise and Anna became such good friends.  You also get to see how Tate and Anna become a couple and the twisted relationship between the three.  There are other friends in the group that add to the plot but the main story is between Anna, Elise and Tate.

Once Elise has been found and Anna is arrested, it really seems as if the prosecutor (I can't remember his title in Aruba but essentially, he would be the prosecutor) has it out for Anna.  I really ended up hating him and wanting him to fail because it appeared as if he concentrated all his focus on Anna and dismissed any other leads.  I also was disgusted with Tate and Anna's other friends at first because they appeared to only be looking out for themselves and they kind threw Anna under the bus.  Then I decided, if faced with a murder accusation and life in prison in a foreign country, I would probably do the same.  

The ending did not shock me at all as I thought I knew who the killer was the whole time but like I said, it had me doubting myself the whole time.  I was pretty sure but there were always a couple questions that made me pause.  

If you liked Gone Girl or Girl on a Train then you will definitely like this one.  It says it is a YA book but I think it is a mature YA book.  There is a lot of sex, drugs and alcohol in the book so I would definitely say ages 16 and up.  



Thursday, July 7, 2016

Book Review: Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
 
Minutes before the train pulled into the station in Jenkinsville, Arkansas, Patty Bergen knew something exciting was going to happen. But she never could have imagined that her summer would be so memorable. German prisoners of war have arrived to make their new home in the prison camp in Jenkinsville. To the rest of her town, these prisoners are only Nazis. But to Patty, a young Jewish girl with a turbulent home life, one boy in particular becomes an unlikely friend. Anton relates to Patty in ways that her mother and father never can. But when their forbidden relationship is discovered, will Patty risk her family and town for the understanding and love of one boy?

My Thoughts:
 
I homeschool my kids so I get to decide what they read for literature.  I get some great suggestions from different curriculums.  I firmly believe that if I make my kiddos read a book, I should read it too, if I haven't already so the great thing about this is that I am finding some great books that I have never read before.  This was one of those books.
 
Patty is 12 years old.  She is the oldest daughter of a Jewish store owner.  Her parents make it incredibly clear that Patty's younger sister, Sharon, is their favorite.  She is pretty and talented and just the best thing since sliced bread.  Patty tries everything to get her parents, especially her father, to find some worth in her.  Because of this, she likes to embellish her stories, or just outright make them up, to try to impress the people around her.
 
In Patty's small and boring little town, something exciting is about to happen.  A train with German POWs comes to town.  Patty is very interested in the POWs, especially when they come into her father's store.  At the store, she meets Anton, a POW that she is instantly interested in.  She has a short conversation with him while selling him some items and he is permanently etched into her memory.

Weeks later, when Anton escapes the prison, Patty finds herself wondering how he did it and where he is until she sees him trying to hide.  Patty leads him to the abandoned rooms above her garage and lets him hide there.  While in hiding, Anton and Patty develop an interesting relationship.  

This story was so heartbreaking for me because of the way Patty's parents treated her.  Her father actually beat her several times.  I was glad she had Ruth, her families help, and then Anton.  Patty's stories were slightly annoying but you have to remember that she is 12 and she is trying to get someone to believe she is worth something.  

When the ending comes, I really wanted karma to get Patty's parents, mostly her father.  You never really find out what becomes of her parents or Patty after she leaves the school she is sent to but despite that, the ending was satisfying (I also know there is a sequel so maybe that answers those questions).  I think this is definitely a must read!