The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

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Thanks to Edelweiss and Sky Pony Press for the opportunity to read and review The Unbinding of Mary Reade! Mary hides on the ship when Pirates attack and she unexpectedly kills the Captain and swears allegiance to the Pirate Captain. The next chapter goes back in time and tells us how Mary disguised herself, as her dead brother Mark, to please her mother and to receive money from her grandmother. Her mother calls her a bastard girl and tells her that she’s unacceptable in society or in the family. From then on Mary stays disguised as a boy everywhere except when she’s alone with her mother, who’s drunk most of the time. The story moves back and forth between the past and the present and eventually they catch up to each other, with Mary trying to figure out and understand her place in the world. Action and a delicate, tactful handling of Mary’s relationships and how she finally decides what suits her true-self best. A 4 star adventure!

 

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

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Deeply moving!
Thanks to Edelweiss+, NetGalley and Simon Pulse for the opportunity to read and review A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti!
This story captivated me with it’s mysterious, traumatic event and the strength of the main character and supporting characters. Also, the charm and humor of family and all the quirks that go along with that wonderful six letter word. The story is somewhat difficult to follow; I’m sure that was on purpose by the author because the back and forth, scattered thoughts represent the stress of the main character very well. A heartbreaking and inspiring story that fully reveals the event by the end of the book. 5 stars for this deeply moving realistic fiction!

Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather

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This book still brings tears to my eyes, just thinking about it.  A truly touching story dealing with tough issues!
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the opportunity to read and review Learning to Breathe by Janice Lynn Mather. Indy comes from a dysfunctional family except for her loving grandmother who would do anything for her, but she’s not always close enough to help and doesn’t own a phone. Indy has been sexually abused and ended up pregnant and she feels alone, with no one to turn to. She’s living with her Uncle, his wife and her two cousins. Her Uncle cares for her but he’s gone a lot on business. Aunt Patrice treats Indy with disgust. Her cousin Smiley is friendly to Indy but busy being a teenage girl. Her cousin Gary is the one who abuses Indy. This story holds many messages in its pages: you don’t know who you can trust; don’t judge quickly or make assumptions; there are good people in the world; perseverance and resilience are important skills; friends can be found in the most unexpected places and your choices are your own to make. Truly a touching story dealing with some tough issues, 4 stars!

 

Watching You by Shannon Greenland

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This story holds suspense, romance, mystery and a thrilling plot in its pages!
Thanks to Entangled Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Watching You by Shannon Greenland. Viola is attending Ponce de Leon Academy because she’s been awarded a scholarship, a scholarship that someone else was relying on since he’s been the recipient for the past three years. Now Riel is a senior with no way to pay for school. Viola is grateful for the chance to attend the academy with its connection to MIT, where she’s dreamed of going as long as she can remember. She comes from a not-so-good background and she wants to change things and make everything better for her family. The story is told from Viola’s point of view with a creepy stalker speaking every so often. The pace picks up and the background is set, while the characters grow more interesting and intriguing. At first, Viola comes across as whiny, but the more I got to know her, the more I liked her and could understand her reasoning. I appreciate Viola’s perseverance and Riel’s strength and his dedication to his younger sister. The underlying message of how hard work and goals are important in becoming successful reminds readers that work ethic is a wonderful thing. This story holds suspense, romance, mystery and a thrilling plot in its pages, 4 stars!

Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing by Yoshifumi Miyazaki

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Thanks to NetGalley and Timber Press for the opportunity to read and review Shinrin Yoku: The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing by Yoshifumi Miyazaki. This book is meant for reducing stress and the title alone relaxes me. Shinrin-yoku, nature therapy and forest therapy both embody “Japan’s Relationship with Nature”. Effects of nature on stress relief and the body are discussed with beautiful photographs interspersed between the scientific information. Information is even given for when getting outdoors to relax isn’t a possibility; tips and tricks that make you feel like you’re really out in nature can be convincing enough to relief stress. A wonderful guide to nature therapy relieves stress just by reading it, 4 stars!

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris

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Wonderfully informative and humorous guide to Meditation.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the opportunity to read and review Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren. I chuckled at the Table of Contents and how accurate the section and chapter titles were when applied to human nature. Some of the headings are “I Don’t Have Time for This”, “If I Get Too Happy, I’ll Lose My Edge” and “People Might Think I’m Weird”. So great and opens up the path for humor in its pages. I was excited to discover the app that accompanies the instructional meditation given in this book. The commentary is full of humor and deals with thoughts that swirl through our minds as we try to relax and meditate. Short and easily doable meditations are introduced along with helpful, concise cheat sheets. I love the “RAIN”, “Walking Through Sound” and “Ten Good Breaths”! This quote captures the true essence of this practical and useful book, “Meditation is basically the end of boredom.” I was surprised and disturbed by the results of the study “Pandora’s Box” where people were left alone in a room with no stimulus, except a button that produced an electric shock. Many of the participants chose to give themselves electric shocks because of their discomfort of being quietly alone. Wonderfully informative instructional guide on meditation for anyone who wants to try but is skeptical of meditating, 5 stars!

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

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A heartwrenching and heartwarming realistic fiction story! Thanks to a Goodreads giveaway, I received Every Note Played by Lisa Genova! As the main characters and their lives are set up for the story, I’m interested and sad at the same time. You never know what life is going to bring your way and it made me remember and appreciate how good my life is. The book is difficult to read because the reader gets a bird’s eye view of what Richard is feeling, going through and ultimately losing because of ALS and his life regrets. This touching novel brings the reader into the life of someone diagnosed with ALS and includes all of the intimate details of his struggles with the disease and the relationships that have built him into the person he is. Ultimately a tale of forgiveness, Every Note Played opens our eyes to the patients, loved ones, patient care, technology and research based on ALS. The author put a lot of research and love into this novel and her notes are shared at the end of the book, along with stories of real ALS patients and the inspiration they have given to everyone they left behind, which are their legacies. ALS research continues and as Every Note Played was going to press, a new breakthrough occurred and was in a trial in Japan, giving hope and possible help to patients worldwide. 5 stars for this heart wrenching and heartwarming realistic fiction story!

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Family members left behind after a suicide face deep pain. Resources offering real help are included in this book! Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read and review The Astonishing Color of After! The main character saw her mother’s suicide and believes that her mother has visited her as a bird. No one believes her even though she has physical evidence. Her and her father visit her maternal grandparents in Taiwan and even though they don’t speak much English, they believe that the bird is true. This book is difficult to categorize into a genre, but even though it has supernatural happenings throughout the story, I feel that this is still, above all, a realistic fiction tale. The deep pain that survivors of suicidal family members face is a real problem and an intense struggle that hasn’t been addressed as much as it’s needed. The Astonishing Color of After helps! Resources are included towards the end of the book for various needs of those dealing with depression, loss, suicide and/or suicidal thoughts. The resources are categorized under the following headings: Suicide Prevention, For Suicide Loss Survivors and Understanding Mental Illness. The cultural education and coping skills made the story more interesting and I love Axel and the great friend that he is to Leigh and I appreciate the author’s honesty about her own experiences of being a suicide survivor. 4 stars!

Chalk Houses by Tracy Clark

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Chalk houses by Tracy Clark tells the story of Talon who lives with her single mother that always seems to have a new boyfriend, drinks and is involved with drugs. The story begins on Talon’s sixteenth birthday and her mother doesn’t even remember what day it is. Talon’s goals are to educate herself and receive a degree in psychology and child development so she will be equipped to help neglected children and never be like her mother. She begins receiving emails from Aunt T, who supposedly wants to get to know Talon. They create a circle journal of communication with their emails. Talon has one true friend, Karalyn, who always gives Talon moral support. Gabby, Talon’s younger next door neighbor that lives with an aunt and uncle and is pretty much neglected by them, is under Talon’s wing of protection. Talon spreads out and tests relationship waters with others as she expands her social circle. She makes some dumb decisions and struggles with the consequences and in the meantime she discovers much more about her mother than she could have ever guessed at before. Chalk Houses is a coming of age, coming into your own work of literary art with its beautiful, dynamic characters and other characters that are horrific in their actions. The story comes full circle and is a real tear-jerker full of disappointment, hurt and hope. 5 heart expanding stars!

Sweet Revenge by Heather Kim

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Thanks to NetGalley and Capstone, Switch Press for the opportunity to read and review Sweet Revenge by Heather Kim. The subtitle “Passive-Aggressive Desserts for your Exes and Enemies” says it all! Cleverly named recipes for all the different reasons you could possibly have a need to rid yourself of relationship frustrations. Creatively named sections classify each recipe and the author states “revenge is best served warm” and “ kindness is rare” so the goodness will come back around. The concept of taking your frustrations, hurt and anger out while creating yummy goodness is refreshing and therapeutic. Imaginative and laced with humor and fun visuals will make even the most down-day humorous. Two Thumbs up and 5 stars for a sumptuous, creative book full of yumminess!