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!

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!

The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for the opportunity to read and review The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato. Teddi’s summer vacation begins with a few options. She decides to spend time with Summerteens, the local library’s summer writing workshop. Before the workshop kicks off, Teddi has had a spooky encounter, a kiss and an argument with her single, downtrodden mother. I fell in love with The Precious Dreadful, Teddi’s personality and boldness and the variety of characters it holds in its pages! The more I read, the deeper the story took me. Teddi has pretty much raised herself since her mother, Brenda, tends to be drunk and partying with her friends instead of being available and sober for her daughter. Brenda is also keeping secrets from Teddi and has tried to, in her own dysfunctional way, protect her role as a mother. As Teddi’s summer rolls on, relationships become more complicated and drama-ridden and her subconscious is forcing her to remember a traumatic and horrible part of her childhood. The Precious Dreadful bends genres: mystery, horror, supernatural, romance and young adult realistic fiction; this book also pulls at your heartstrings through intense tragedy, awareness of bad choices and the bond of friendship and kindness of others and it’s well deserving of 5 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!

 

The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

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Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle! Lily struggles daily with her ADHD which causes misunderstandings, confusion and impulsive behavior. Through an odd turn of events, Lily begins to have a crush on Abelard, who is considered to be different due to his Asperger’s Syndrome. They mostly communicate through texting since it’s easier for both of them; Lily can resist impulses and Abelard can slow down sensory overload. The two of them have their ups and downs but find a wonderful balance in their relationship that works out perfectly for them. This sweet, thought-provoking story touches on the reality of people that struggle with learning disabilities and the family members that live through the struggles with them. Heartwarming realistic fiction worth 5 stars!

Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anne Priemaza

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Kat and Meg Conquer the World by Anna Priemaza has a bright, fun cover that entices readers. Kat has just started at a new school. Meg attends this school and the two of them become partners for their class Science Project. Neither one of them has any truly good friends and, little by little they grow a friendship beginning with their mutual love of a certain video game. Through the ups and downs of growing up and building relationships, Kat and Meg discover how to cope and enjoy their lives and accept themselves just as they are. You never know when you’re going to find a friend! The maturity level of the two main characters didn’t always feel consistent, but otherwise, this book is a fun read that young teens will be able to relate to. 3.5 stars for this realistic fiction written for teens.

Breaking the Ice by Julie Cross

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Thanks to Entangled Publishing and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review Breaking the Ice by Julie Cross! Fletcher seems to have many things he wants to hide and Haley has a good heart and great values. The two of them are working on a class project together and sometimes get along fairly well and at other times they can barely tolerate each other. I enjoyed Off the Ice (the first book in the Juniper Falls series) immensely and Breaking Ice is just as good, dealing with bullying, sexuality, family, learning disabilities and the stressful experience of intense allergies. Unique aspects of solitude and the consequences of social and parental pressures are addressed also. I love the dancing and the teacher who’s willing to work with and help her students based on their individual needs! The only drawback is the often used f-word, which I felt was unnecessary to the story being told. 4.5 stars for a thought provoking story!

All Things New by Lauren Miller

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Thanks to NetGalley and Three Saints Press for the opportunity to read and review All Things New by Lauren Miller. Jessa struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. She can’t seem to deal with life very well. After her accident, she’s dealing with so much more than she was before, plus the scars on her face. She refuses to talk about why she’s angry with Wren or anything that’s bothering her. Jessa agrees to move to Colorado with her dad and attend an art school. She makes some friends and builds a relationship with her dad while learning to deal with the aftermath of the accident. Along with her anxiety and scars, Jessa sees bruises and scars on people even though their faces are blemish free. She realizes that she’s hallucinating and her mind is seeing what isn’t there. Jessa works on her confidence, the relationship with her father and building friendships and trust in others. As she’s doing these things, Jessa grows and understands more than the eye can see. 4 stars for this eye-opening realistic fiction novel for young adult readers!
I received a complimentary copy of this book for voluntary consideration.

 

Project You by Aubre Andrus

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Thanks to NetGalley and Capstone for the opportunity to read and review Project You by Aubre Andrus! Just reading the Table of Contents made me feel relaxed and helped me look forward to reading the book. Full of de-stressing activities to help you take care of yourself and feel at peace. Self-care and self-help tips for almost every stressor plus feng shui principles, calming recipes and activities as well as energizing and replenishing tips are found in this book, along with happy music lists categorized by decade, ideas for starting a new hobby and the importance of laughing, ideas about a gratitude journal and a worry box and a cupcake for one recipe for a single serve treat. The book also has a section that explains the benefits of exercise and sunlight and sections for ideas for 30-day challenges to tackle goals, nature journals, inspiring songs list to energize, challenging yourself to build confidence and recipes and ideas for pampering yourself. Project You gives the reader help and resources for a variety of reasons. I am buying this book for the school library. 5 stars!
*I received a complimentary arc of this book for voluntary consideration.