It Runs In The Family

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It Runs In The Family

by Richard Manning

March 2017

In an attempt to broaden my reading scope, I decided to add some biographies to my reading list. It Runs In The Family intrigued me and it turned out to be a fascinating book. I was most captivated by Manning’s writing. It was enchanting and drew me in throughout the entire book. I did find his style a bit choppy as he jumped from topic to topic a bit haphazardly. Because of that, I found myself putting it down, but then drawn to pick it back up nonetheless. Manning covers a huge range of topics from politics to global warming to religion to family. His memoir covers his journey growing up in a fundamentalist family with a detached father and abusive mother. Manning becomes a journalist, breaking away from his religious upbringing. He draws on his past to learn why he is the way he is: for instance, he suffers from depression and he realizes it’s because feelings of loneliness run on both sides of his family (just manifesting itself differently). I found Manning’s memoir interesting with its broad range of topics, and fascinating with its conclusions.

Summing it up: I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir and recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Rainy Day Sisters

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Rainy Day Sisters

by Kate Hewitt

January 2017

I spotted Rainy Day Sisters on my library’s new shelf and it looked like the perfect quick, happy read. And it was! I absolutely loved this book. I read it in two sittings and thoroughly enjoyed every second. The writing was so good, the characters unique yet real, and the plot sweet and endearing. I can’t say enough good things about this perfect little book.

Lucy has just lost it all: her job, her boyfriend, and her reputation. She wants to escape Boston and her old life. Her half-sister Juliet offers a solution. Juliet lives in Hartley-by-the-Sea, a snug little coastal town in northern England and invites Lucy to live with her for four months to get back on her feet. There’s even a receptionist position open at the local elementary school as the previous receptionist is away on maternity leave. Lucy, the eternal optimist, anticipates a warm welcome and a fresh new start from day one. However, her sister greats her with coolness and her job gets off to a rocky start: it’s overwhelming and her boss is stern (though also, unfairly young and hot). Lucy’s tempted to go home, but her determination wins out and she decides to stay and do her best to get her new start. Spoilers: Before Lucy came to England, she worked as a barista at an art gallery and as an artist. Her gallery agrees to show her work, but before the opening, Lucy’s mother (who is an established, popular artist herself) writes a scathing article saying how awful Lucy’s art is and how she won’t help her make her way just because she is her daughter. Lucy is crushed, she had wanted her mom there as her mom, not as the famous artist, and didn’t want her name to help her. The gallery refuses to open her display and her boyfriend breaks up with her because he has two sons and the “bad press” will hurt them. It’s is a horrible blow which sends Lucy away. However, being in Hartley-by-the-Sea is good medicine and Lucy falls in love with the town, and ever so slowly the town falls in love with her. The children at the school adore her, the tattooed postman starts warming up to her, and she begins to make friends with her co-workers. Her boss, Alex has a 12 year old (Bella) and a 7 year old (Poppy), and is a widower of almost 2 years. Bella keeps getting into trouble at school and finally gets suspended. Lucy keeps and eye on her and figures out that she’s getting bullied because she doesn’t have bras (her dad is clueless). Lucy steps in and helps Bella buy bras and broach the subject with Alex. She starts to have feelings towards the whole family and they her, but it’s complicated since she’s leaving soon. Her relationship is complicated with Juliet too. Juliet’s 11 years older than Lucy and their mother chose to have Lucy through a sperm donor (Juliet’s father was never in the picture). Juliet was never loved by her mother and always got the short end of the stick, so she’s resented Lucy for all of Lucy’s life and can’t seem to get past the resentment and bitterness. Slowly, as Lucy refuses to run away from the obvious problem between them, Juliet begins to break down and explain her feelings. Finally things start falling into place. Juliet and Lucy have a breakthrough and Juliet tells Lucy she doesn’t want her to leave. Lucy realizes that Hartley-by-the-Sea is her home. She has friends, love, and hope for a future. Lucy decides to stay and she and Alex get together, much to the delight of Bella and Poppy. She starts teaching an art class at the school, and her relationship really blossoms with Juliet. Then, Lucy’s mother calls and says she has cancer and needs Lucy to come home. Even though her mother is awful, Lucy feels she doesn’t have a choice. Promising to return to Hartley-by-the-Sea at some point, Lucy leaves only a week before Christmas. Everyone is glum and not convinced Lucy will come back, Alex even asks to put their relationship on hold. Lucy’s return to her mother puts everything in perspective. She realizes her mother is selfish and has no love for Juliet, she realizes that she misses Hartley-by-the-Sea and her life with Juliet, and she realizes that she’s meant to be with Alex and a hiatus is not ok. She’s stays with her mother through her surgery and then surprises everyone by flying home for Christmas where she declares her love for Alex, and tells Juliet she wants to stay with her. Everyone is thrilled and it’s such a happy ending. The final lose end that gets tied up is between Juliet and her mother. She finally gets answers that she’s wanted for years. Her mother doesn’t know Juliet’s father because one night she got drunk and raped, but she has no idea who did it. She tried to love Juliet, but found she couldn’t no matter how hard she tried. Juliet is angry and crushed, but is relieved for the closure. Through Lucy, she has also warmed enough to find love. She and her neighbor have been friends, but she’s been to icy to allow for anything to happen. Now that her guard is down, they are able to connect and fall in love. It was such a beautiful story filled with complications and pain, that broke through to love and hope. The characters grew and changed and that’s my favorite kind of story!

Summing it up: I highly recommend this perfect, sweet little read!

All the best, Abbey

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard

by J. K. Rowling

December 2016

This book was so good. I sank into it and drank up every word as if it was a calming cup of tea. I’ve always loved fairy tales. The Blue Fairy Book was an early favorite of mine. There’s something about them that feels like home. I immediately liked the tales themselves, but then it got so much better with the commentary. It was clever and funny and gave a depth that I really enjoyed. The illustrations were beautiful in top of everything else. Totally enthralled with Rowling’s book!

 

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Summing it up: I loved it and highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Quidditch Through the Ages

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Quidditch Through the Ages

by Kennilworthy Whisp (aka J. K. Rowling)

November 2016

Because I was so enthralled with the Harry Potter series, I had to keep reading Rowling’s other works, starting with Quidditch Through the Ages.  It was so cute and fun to read! It was a quick read, but lovely to go back into Potter’s world a little bit. I’m looking forward to working through the rest of Rowling’s books. One thing I especially liked were the illustrations like these:

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Summing it up: I definitely recommend this fun, quick read!

All the best, Abbey

 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald

November 2016

Oh, this is such a sweet, endearing novel! It is cute, creative, and describes the idyllic small town. At times it was a bit schmaltzy (yes, even for me), but it didn’t detract from the book. Bivald created a town that I wanted to visit and characters that felt like friends by the time I left them. The characters were full of quirks, but also had heartfelt and sweet moments throughout. I loved the writing and read through this one in two sittings. I truly escaped into The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend and I’m happy I did. I also got a lot of book suggestions while reading, so that’s a huge plus! 😉

Sara is a young, jobless woman from Sweden who has decided to take an extended vacation to visit her pen pal, Amy, in Broken Wheel, Iowa. She and Amy corresponded about all sorts of things, but mainly sent books back and forth to each other. Sara doesn’t leave much behind in the way of family, friends, or connections, so she is happy to escape for a few months. However, when she arrives in Broken Wheel, she learns that Amy has just passed away, and the idyllic town Amy wrote about is nothing more than a small, dying town. While she is struggling with this unanticipated reality, Sara is welcomed by the town and it’s settled that she’ll stay in Amy’s house like Amy would have wanted. At first Sara is hesitant, but before long she decides to give the town a chance and try to enjoy her vacation. What she doesn’t know is that the town council (comprised of the town prude, Caroline, a flustered housewife, Jen, and a gay bar owner, Andy) is trying to set her up with the hot town bachelor, Tom (who happens to be Amy’s nephew). Their first meeting is anything but smooth. Sara doesn’t have a driver’s license, so Tom gives her a lift into town, but is clearly not pleased; while Sara is more interested in reading a book than talking to Tom. Sara is a voracious reader — someone who loves the escape that a good book brings — who worked at a bookstore for 10 years before it closed and subsequently led her to visit the US.  Spoilers: as Sara meets more and more of the townsfolk, she realizes that they need to read, and that she is the one to help them. She decides to open up a bookshop for the town with Amy’s vast library. She can’t legally work on her visa, so she decides it is the town’s bookshop and she is merely helping out. As an added bonus she can use it to repay the town’s kindness and plethora of free meals/drinks they’ve been giving her. Sure enough the town is slowly touched by Sara’s work. She is a bright light that everyone is drawn to (even people from the adjoining “big town” of Hope). Sara recommends books to anyone who comes in the shop, creates cleaver sections of books to display, and orders books to fill in any holes. She loves her work, loves the town, and sure enough is falling in love with Tom, who naturally is falling for her, but they both won’t admit it. As Sara’s time in Broken Wheel draws to a close, the town conspires to keep her (as her visa requires her to return home and it’d be difficult for her to come back). They decide that she has to get married and that Tom’s the one to do it! They are both opposed because it isn’t for love (each of them thinking the other one is not in love with them), but get strong armed by the town to do it. However, they are prevented from actually marrying when the police find out (they suspect that there’s immigration fraud). After a lot of hullabaloo, they trick the police into believing that it was actually true love (which of course it really is), and Tom and Sara finally accept and admit to each other that they are in love. Sara is able to stay in the US and keep her bookshop open, which makes everyone happy. There were several side stories, which were heartening and lovely. One of a man named George whose wife walked out on him with is daughter. He became a drunkard, but slowly turned his life around hoping his daughter would someday find him, which she does in the end. All the townsfolk had personalities and stories that gave the book a depth and made it so interesting. I loved that! I also loved that some of the letters Amy wrote Sara are interspersed throughout the book . . . such a delightful touch.

Summing it up: this book was sweet, dynamic, and a simply enchanting read. I definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Lola and the Boy Next Door

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Lola and the Boy Next Door

by Stephanie Perkins

November 2016

Naturally, I read Lola and the Boy Next Door because it is part of a three book series by Stephanie Perkins, and I loved the first book, Anna and the French Kiss. I actually loved Lola more. It was incredible. Perkins creates such a dynamic love story that is interesting, filled with conflict, but absolutely beautiful and endearing. Her characters are relatable, even in their quirks, and I got totally swept away (I read this one cover to cover from 10:30-2:30 one night). I can’t say enough good things about the characters, plot, and romance.

Lola is a high school student in San Francisco who loves to sew and dress in elaborate costumes. She is crazy for her rock star boyfriend, Max, and incredibly nervous about who is moving next door. She is hoping beyond hope that it’s not the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, moving back to town. Calliope is a protege ice skater, so their family moves around a lot, and Cricket broke her heart two years ago when she was 15. They had a great friendship that seemed to be something more, but then Cricket moved away without even saying goodbye. Lola was (and maybe still is) heartbroken, but has moved on and is now quite happy with her boyfriend. Sadly for Lola, it is indeed the Bell twins moving back into their house next door and Lola is crushed, as well as crazy nervous to run into Cricket. Soon enough their paths cross and it is hard not to fall back into friendship. What makes matters worse is that Lola’s dads both dislike Max, but love Cricket. Lola battles increasing feelings for Cricket, which are exacerbated when he tells her he is crazy about her, never should have left her hanging two years ago, and wants to be with her badly. Lola is torn because she does still have feelings for Cricket, but she is also very happy with Max. Spoilers: as time moves on, Max becomes increasingly distant to Lola. He travels with his band a lot and he suspects something is up. Lola is spending more time with Cricket because she enjoys his company, but it’s getting harder to deny how she really feels and Cricket doesn’t want to compromise her and it’s getting harder for him to resist. Finally, the truth comes out. Lola and Cricket figure out that Calliope sabotaged their relationship years ago and Lola realizes that she can’t live without Cricket. She goes to Max and they have a horrible breakup with Max saying terrible things. Lola realizes that he’s not a nice guy, but is still heartbroken, and she doesn’t feel worthy of Cricket, so she keeps her distance and looses sight of herself for a while, trying to be “good” and “worthy” and “better.” Ultimately, she realizes that she loves Cricket and she wants to be with him and he is more than ready to be with her. By now it’s almost time for the winter formal (that Lola has been painstakingly making a Marie Antoinette dress for), and for Calliope’s big skating competition, which Cricket will be going to (sadly he won’t be able to go to the winter formal). The weekend arrives and Calliope rushes to Lola because her dress has gotten torn by her niece. She is distraught and Lola is the only one who can help. Lola agrees to make a new dress for Calliope (who has recently apologized and given her blessing to Lola and Cricket), and after she finishes and they leave, she gets ready for her formal. She puts together her costume, but is upset because it’s too costumey and not Lola enough. In her frustration she ruins her wig, but then who should appear to help: Cricket! He came back to surprise her so she didn’t have to go to the formal alone, and because his sister is a skater he knows how to fix hair, which he quickly does for Lola. Soon they are wrapped in a passionate embrace and share how they have always loved each other. Then they go off to the dance. Such a perfect ending! Anna and later Étienne, work at the same movie theater Lola does and Étienne and Cricket go to the same school. There’s a nice dynamic with them throughout the book, which was so lovely after finishing Anna.

Summing it up: this book was romantic, sweet, and perfect. I loved every second and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by J. K. Rowling

November 2016

Wow. Book 6 was a shocker. I have the usual praise for Rowling’s talent (gift really) of writing. She creates this amazing world filled with people you relate to and feel strongly about. I’m amazed and so happy I decided to read her books. I’m starting to really see how the books are getting darker. I’m so invested in these characters that it’s hard to see them go through difficult things. I really liked the book though and now I’m feeling torn because I want to finish the series, but I know I’ll be sad when I finish and I’m simply not ready to be done.

The end of summer is drawing near and Harry is getting ready to return to school for his 6th year, by way of a visit from Dumbledore. His aunt and uncle reluctantly let him leave with the Headmaster, and Harry is free from them for another year. Dumbledore’s reason for getting Harry is to enlist his help in persuading an ex-professor, Slughorn, to return to Hogwarts. Harry agrees and in the end is able to convince Slughorn to return, though he regrets it a little after learning that Slughorn is rather full of himself and rather fond of Harry. The new year begins filled with old friends and a more malicious Malfoy, whom Harry is convinced is in league with Voldemort (which he is quite right about). Harry is able to pursue being an Auror because Slughorn has replaced Snape as potions professor and Snape has finally reached his goal by becoming the defense of the dark arts professor. Harry is surprised to be a favorite in Slughorn’s class, not only because Slughorn likes him, but because he has a little extra help. His potions book is an old copy that was owned by the “Half-Blood Prince” who happened to excel at potions and had written in many edits, along with his own potions/spells. Those notes allow Harry to rise to the top of the class. Spoilers: He also has the pleasure of taking private lessons from Dumbledore where he learns a lot about Voldemort’s past: from how his parents met, to his father abandoning them, to his mother dying and him being raised in a orphanage until Dumbledore found him and brought him to Hogwarts. His complicated past sheds light on his character – he is a loaner, he delights in torturing others, and he has an insatiable desire to live forever by separating his soul and putting the pieces into different Horcruxes. Meanwhile, Harry is struggling with feelings for Ginny, who is newly single, and Ron and Hermione are flirting with a relationship. After a huge Quidditch match, Ginny and Harry finally kiss and become an official couple (yay . . . I was very happy about this). As Dumbledore and Harry’s lessons continue, Dumbledore tells Harry that he needs to get a particular memory from Professor Slughorn. Harry tries everything to no avail, until one night he takes the felix felicis potion (one he won in potions class thanks to the Half-Blood Prince), and his night is especially lucky, culminating with success in getting the memory. This memory shows that Prof. Slughorn taught Voldemort and in a moment that has brought him eternal guilt, told Voldemort about Horcruxes (and how they divide the soul and hold part of it and can only be performed when someone is murdered). Harry and Dumbledore discuss that Voldemort must have made 6 Horcruxes, keeping the 7th part of his soul in his body. They have already destroyed two (Riddle’s diary, and Marvolo’s ring), but there are 6 more to find and destroy before Voldemort can truly be defeated, and Dumbledore is pretty sure where to find the first one. He takes Harry on a long journey to a secret cave protected by many spells, but Dumbledore is able to pass. They enter the cave and find it holds a vast body of water with a little glowing island in the middle. In the water float dead bodies, but they are able to cross in a boat to reach the island. There is a locket on the island surrounded by a liquid that must be drunk in order to get at it. Dumbledore commands Harry to force him to drink it so they can get the locket (Horcrux). They are successful, but it leaves Dumbledore weak and it’s a struggle to return to Hogwarts. When they finally arrive back, they see that Hogwarts is under attack and run to join the fight between wizards and death eaters. Harry had been afraid of this and had enlisted his friends to keep watch, which helped it from being worse. But Harry and Dumbledore get cornered and ultimately Dumbledore gets betrayed by Snape, who kills him. In the aftermath, Snape (who reveals himself as the Half-Blood Prince) and Malfoy and most of the Death Eaters escape. There is a funeral for Dumbledore and Harry is left with sorrow and many questions, but he is also left with his friends who are supporting him. With resolve, Harry decides to break up with Ginny to keep her out of danger, return to his aunt and uncle’s where he’ll get his last bit of protection, and then plans to drop out of Hogwarts in order to find the rest of the Horcruxes. Harry also learns that the locket they worked so hard to get is a fake. Someone else had gotten the real one and left a decoy. It is with a heavy heart that the 6th book ends.

Summing it up: there was more challenging content in this book, but it was still a phenomenal book!

All the best, Abbey