What Sandy is reading
"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."
-Neale Donald Walsch
Sandy Says: Although some of the present events in The Storyteller can seem incongruous, Picoult obviously researched the Holocaust with depth and sincerity for this latest novel. Her portrayal of the events in Minka's life was heart wrenching and disturbingly detailed. The novel begs the question: Is it possible that the potential for both good and evil exists within each of us? As the story unfolds, the line between these two dichotomies blurs enough to make even the most introspective reader wonder what lies beneath.
Sandy Says: In Jodi Picoult’s newest tome, the prolific novelist throws a wolf pack into her stock family dynamic and creates something fresh and unexpected. When Cara and her father, Luke, are in a debilitating car accident, the family stands vigil over Luke’s shell recounting where they all went wrong. Edward, the runaway son, reticently returns with an agenda. Cara, the loyal daughter, harbors a secret. The ex-wife, Georgie, revisits the demise of a marriage. And a wolf-pack mourns the loss of a member. In usual Picoult fashion, the story hinges on a hot-bed issue- the right-to-die- and the family legal battle threatens to tear an already divided family even further apart.
Sandy says: : If you layer the futuristic world of The Handmaid’s Tale over the classic the Scarlet Letter, you get the gripping tale of Hannah Payne. Tried and convicted of murdering her unborn child, she faces her transgressions and comes out bolder & stronger. Although the story borrows heavily from Hawthorn’s classic, its unique twists will surprise even the most devout literary critic.
Sandy Says: Just when you thought Suzanne Collins had mastered the dystopian concept with her Hunger Games series, along comes Veronica Roth with her own unique twist. In Divergent and Insurgent, Roth tells the story of a community of factions who each do their part to maintain the virtues of a well-functioning society: Intelligence, Bravery, Truth, Selflessness, & Friendship. While these virtues seem idyllic on the outside, the bad often travels with the good. Throughout both books, Tris learns that to be brave one must be selfless, which leaves her confused about where she really belongs.
Sandy Says: What happens when a couple desperately in want of a child moves to Alaska to follow other adventuresome dreams? With an abundance of snow and a free evening, they build a “snow child” to fill their loneliness, of course. Sprinkle a little magical realism on top of their desolation and you get a wistful story about an impish little fairy who touches the lives of all whom she encounters. Ivey paints a portrait of Alaska that is bleak and bright at the same time. This contrasting view leaves the reader wondering why in the world Jack and Mabel persevere when their hopes are continually dashed. It also leaves you wondering why you don’t just migrate to Alaska yourself. The Snow Child is enchanting!
Sandy says: Brashares sucked me back into the Sisterhood Saga where our familiar friends are grappling with marriage, mortality, parenthood & regret. This uplifting story twisted my heart out.
Sandy says: If Pam Houston isn’t speaking to you in her latest fictional memoir, then you probably aren’t listening. Her relatable tales about men with her metaphorical & literal travels resound ever so lightly even for this un-traveled homebody. Pam’s contents shift from place-to-place, her heart beats in many different domains and her life ebbs and flows right out of the pages of her latest book.
Sandy says: In this frighteningly possible novel, Schulman explores how a child’s seemingly simple mistake can lead to the destruction of a family, “a marriage compressed into an emotional haiku” and a once-promising future forever altered. After Jake gets an unwanted email from a young girl he met at a party, he does what any teenager would do: he forwards it to his friends. What follows takes this family down one brick at a time. Schulman’s relevant and timely novel is sure to spark some preventative conversations in the homes of many teenagers.
Sandy Says: War II changed lives- whether it was the lives of the idealistic soldiers running off to be heroes or the young women who waited for them. Ellen Feldman, in Next to Love, expertly illustrates the romanticism and destruction of war through the perspectives of Grace, Milllie and Babe. Although long-time friends, these women each experience war and its aftermath so differently that you wonder how they can remain friends when the fallout settles. But they do. They stand by one another, support one another, rescue one another and cry with one another. Feldman's novel is a portrait of friendship and love, tragedy and triumph, heartbreak and healing. Not since The Help have I been so moved by a group of women.
Sandy Says: Grab your tissues and tuck yourself in for the night. When you start Home Front, Kristin Hannah’s latest family-centric novel, you won’t be able to put it down. Set in the familiar Pacific Northwest, this time a family finds togetherness in the midst of a separation. When Jolene is deployed to Iraq, her husband’s true feelings about her military service bubble up to the surface and trouble ensues for the couple. Only through heartache, can the family truly reassemble and heal. After reading Hannah’s unique perspective, you will never view a soldier’s sacrifice the same way again. Any soldier- mother, father, brother or son.
Sandy Says: Patti Callahan Henry’s latest novel, recreated from her own family’s experience, is both heartbreaking and heartening. Since the day Kate gave up her baby, she has never been able to fill the empty space that Luna left in her soul. Unable to commit to her current boyfriend, she reconnects with her baby’s father, hoping to “close that chapter” in her life and move on. But when their long lost daughter finds Kate’s family on Facebook, she finds that the chapter she was intending to close is truly just beginning. If you are a fan of Kristin Hannah and her emotional tomes, you will feel right at home in the pages of Callahan Henry’s latest.
Sandy Says: If you are looking for a wispy, summer-read with sand and sun, first (and second) love, beach houses and college plans appearing just over the horizon, Sarah Dessen’s new book won’t disappoint. The Moon and More has it all! Although Emaline loves her hometown, Colby, she dreams of something different, something better. At the same time, however, she can’t imagine being anywhere but home working for her family’s real estate business. Columbia or East U? NYC or Colby? Can she have it all?
Sandy Says: Set in the classical-music backdrop of Boston, Daphne Kalotay’s novel Sight Reading tells the story of three friends who are forever intertwined. Hazel and her conductor-husband Nicholas arrive in Boston hopeful for a new start. They aren’t expecting their relationship to crumble. In the middle of their anguish, they find that what tears them apart- their love of music and their desire to surround their child with the love of a family- ultimately has the power to bring them together.
Sandy Says: When reading Tell the Wolves I’m Home, I was instantly transported back to high school in the 80’s. But this novel is more than just growing up in the 80’s; it’s about growing up in the landscape of AIDS. After June’s beloved uncle dies of the disease, she discovers that her uncle had a secret: a man named Toby. By unraveling the hidden part of her uncle’s life, June learns more about herself and what it means to accept someone just the way they are.
Although The Language of Flowers has been out for a while, I finally picked it up and couldn't put it down. Emotionally unavailable, Victoria finally learns what it is to love when she is finally placed in the right home. But Victoria is her own worst enemy. She has to leave the security of this place and her "mother" in order to truly understand the potential that love has to change her.
Sandy Says: Not since Bridget Jones have I enjoyed getting to know a character as much as I have enjoyed getting to Bernadette. Bernadette’s quirkiness, wit and intelligence create a story all on their own—but Semple creates a story for her anyway. Because she left a lucrative, award winning career as an architect to stay home and nest, she doesn’t quite fit in with her peers, the“Galer Street Gnats.” To add some excitement to her life, she paves her own path to adventure. She is an odd visionary and the weightless anchor of her family. You will love her and her story!
Sandy Says: Odd meets odder when Rosie meets Don in Graeme Simsion’s debut novel The Rosie Project. Don’s friend Gene introduces Rosie to Don as a potential candidate for his Wife Project, but Rosie has a project of her own: she is on the hunt to find her biological father. As Don and Rosie develop a kinship over their respective projects, their pairing proves that the whole really is “greater than the sum of its parts.” I liked Rosie’s confidence; I loved Don’s idiosyncrasies; I wanted to be a part of their projects.
Sandy Says: Lauren Oliver has taken scary teen lit to a more realistic level with her newest novel Panic. Everyone knows that teenagers take risks and feel invincible, but the risks these characters take in their summer shenanigans put even the riskiest teen to shame. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next. If you liked the Hunger Games, but thought it could "never happen," you should read this book. It is mind-blowingly scary.
Sandy Says: When I am looking for a novel that is part beach-read, part feel-good, Jojo Moyes is my new favorite author. One Plus One follows a family--single mom, quirky teen, math genius and heroic dog--on a trip to Scotland with a virtual stranger. In an attempt to raise money for private school tuition for her daughter, Jess signs Tanzie up for a Maths competition far from home. With no way to get there, they have to rely on a neighbor they barely know who has troubles of his own. The chaotic adventure that ensues is funny, heartfelt and quirky. If you liked the hilarity ofLittle Miss Sunshine, you will enjoy this book.
Lydia Netzer's sophomore novel "How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky" is just as quirky as "Shine, Shine, Shine" and just as engaging. George and Irene are meant to be together, not because they have a lot in common, not because they have nurtured their relationship, not because they finish each other's sentences, but because their mothers planned it that way from the day they were conceived. Raised together until they were three, and provided with similar experiences after that, their astrologer mothers designed their "twin-souls" to reconnect in the future and fall into a "perfect" love. But of course not everything unfolds as it was designed and sometimes the universe has its own plans.
I loved all three of the "Discovery of Witches" books. They make witches and daemons and vampires seem like ordinary beings that you encounter every day. All of the loose ends are woven together in the The Book of Life like one of Diana's spells. I wish there were more books to come in the series.
Liane Moriarty knows how to write a fun, engaging story. In this com-dram, parents in a beach-side community are speculating about what might have caused the death of one of its own.
Her characters are not quite redeemable; they aren't quite despicable; they are definitely not without flaws. If you are currently a parent of an elementary student, or if you were a parent in a past life, you will undoubtedly recognize some truth to the stereotypes she presents. In fact you might recognize in her characters some characters from your own life.
Read it for a laugh, read it for the commentary, read it for sure!
Jodi Picoult's newest book veers off her beaten New-England path for a trip into Africa. Much like her book Lone Wolf, Leaving Time centers on the lives of animals and how people interact with them. I really have enjoyed learning more about elephants and their grief patterns while being dragged into the saga of yet another Picoult family in distress. The ending is unexpected as usual, but this one will leave you thinking for days!
Maggie Stiefvater's third book in her Raven Cycle series takes her story to a more complex level. It moves a little slower than the first two books yet this pace is necessary to understand the characters on a deeper level. The focus in this book is on Blue as she struggles with her knowledge of her loved ones' futures, her own psychic gifts, and her mother's disappearance. This author keeps getting better and better. Can't read to read Raven Cycle #4!
Just when quirky professor Don Tillman thought he had the whole human interaction thing figured out, his new wife Rosie springs a new surprise on him: she's pregnant. Naturally he thinks that since a multi-page questionnaire helped him find his true love, why not try a spread sheet to navigate the impending challenges of parenthood. Through a comedy of errors, the reader gets to know Don on a whole new level - an unusually emotional one. I'd love to have a friend as loyal and helpful as Don Tillman! If you liked The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect will not disappoint.
I had a copy of All the Bright Places sitting on my classroom desk for a couple of weeks before one of my students approached me to tell me that her uncle had been friends with the author. I had no idea of the impact of those words until I finished this bittersweet book. The friendship between Violet and Finch was so well-developed that it had to be based on some reality. A reality that Jennifer Niven recounts in her afterword. The book resonates with me still because of its raw insight into being a teen who struggles with depression. It is well worth the read and then some!
Lauren Oliver's books keep getting better and better. I read "Panic" soon after it came out, so "Vanishing Girls" had a lot to live up to. It did not disappoint! The complexity of the relationship between the two sisters- Dara and Nick--was intensified by the family's struggle to overcome a tragic accident. Oliver shows how resiliency can come when and how we least expect it. I love Lauren's Oliver's characters and the unique ways she weaves a story.
What I love about Sarah Dessen's books is that they remind me so much of the classic YA that I read when I was in high school. No dystopias, no vampires, no zombies! Just an angsty teen, in a problem-laden family, who overcomes obstacles in order to learn and grow. If you need some throwback fiction that will suck you in from page one, read Saint Anything.
I love Sophie Kinsella's books. When I heard she was coming out with a teen novel, one of my favorite genres, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. Her characters are quirky and fun and usually in the midst of some dramatic situation. Finding Audrey doesn't deviate from that pattern. This teen protagonist is dealing with the fallout of a mean high school prank that has left her with severe anxiety. As she emerges from her dark room and dark glasses, you get a glimpse of who Audrey was prior to being bullied and you like what you see. If you are looking for a new YA author, try this teen drama served with a side of levity.
In What You Left Behind, Jessica Verdi tackles the tough topics of cancer and teen parenthood, but from the point of view of the teen father. Although Ryden is a dad, he is still mentally a little boy, with all of his hopes and dreams intact. Unfortunately, his daughter needs him to man-up and be realistic. Soccer scholarship at UCLA with a baby in tow? Probably not. New girlfriend who doesn't know about his baby girl? A disaster waiting to happen. Relying on his mom and his girlfriend's best friend to parent his child? Never going to last. Ryden's reaction to becoming a dad was not far from how any teen boy would react, yet the fact that his reaction is even highlighted makes this book unique. Overall, a pretty good read.
This. Book. Was. Extraordinary. When I first started reading Extraordinary Means, I thought it was going to be another teen cancer story. Knowing how hard it would be to top The Fault in Our Stars, I held my breath and kept reading. Instead of cancer, these teens are in a boarding-school-style sanitarium for kids with tuberculosis. Not knowing much about this antiquated disease, I soon found myself researching it on the internet. The story is a fresh take on a familiar pattern. Lane and Sadie will enchant you just as much as Hazel and Augustus do.
I'm a huge Jennifer Weiner fan, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on her new novel. Weiner's female characters are consistent and likable, and this is no different with Rachel, the main character in her newest book. "Who Do You Love?" follows the enduring love story of Rachel and Andy, who meet in a hospital as children. As their relationship grows, it also faces challenges that have to be surmounted. As usual, when you are finished reading a Jennifer Weiner book, you feel like you just went through an ordeal with a friend and helped her come out on the other side.