Not a Thing Could Come Between Us

One of my first memories with my sister occurred when I was around five years old. I kicked her in the face because I wanted to know what a black eye looked like. Anger had nothing to do with it. I was notoriously the question-asker of the family after all, and my curiosity simply got the best of me.

As you can probably imagine, my parents — and my sister who is four years older — were not very happy with me. I don’t remember what my punishment was, but I insisted it wasn’t personal. Fortunately, Erin hasn’t held a grudge against me, and even though I spent a lot of my youth being jealous of my crazy smart and talented older sister (that’s not why I kicked her!), we’ve become close friends. She inspires me every day.

My close sisterly bond is one reason why I wanted to read Before We Were Yours. This incredibly tragic story about sisters who are separated and try to find their way back to each other is well-written and different from the plot of most novels. And it reminds you of the importance of family, especially of the sister who forgives you for any hurt and harm you may have caused in the past.

Before We Were Yours

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Heaven Can’t Help Me Now

  • What: The Great Alone
  • Who: Kristin Hannah
  • Pages: 438 pages, hard cover
  • Genres: Contemporary fiction and historical fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

I’m a sucker for scenery. It’s true. As much as I love stories about human interaction and purpose, there’s something so refreshing about reading poetic lines that perfectly depict the alluring lost corners of this world and how people connect with them.

I also crave new storylines. Don’t get me wrong: I will never scoff at boy-meets-girl and happily-ever-after plots. But my mind desires something different too. Something that allows me to explore topics and places I never thought about before or personally experienced.

For these reasons, I’ve been intrigued by Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone since it was published in early 2018. In short, it’s a story about a family that moves to Alaska to live off the land. Check out my library, and you won’t see many titles with similar summaries. I couldn’t wait to get lost in it on my trip to Africa (now that was a solid 10 flames); unfortunately, I didn’t willingly escape to another world. Instead, I couldn’t find my way out of a book that dragged on, had random and too many plot twists, and dramatized to the nth degree.

The Great Alone

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The Best Day with You

Moms are the world’s real-life heroes. I know my mom holds that title, and I’m grateful every day for this wonderful human who brought me into the world and who taught me every thing I know. So it’s only fitting that the day before I left for a Bostonian expedition with my mother, my new e-reader — yes, I finally caved and bought one — suggested The Red Coat: A Novel of Boston, a book where one mom’s power is a central character.

The book has its flaws, but there’s something sweet and special about it too. In summary, it’s a story about young women trying to navigate this tricky world of love, life, and death with the guiding hand of their own mother. And it proves that their influence and presence are felt long after they leave us. It’s a story line we can somehow all relate to.

The Red Coat

Source: Barnes and Noble.

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Wish You Were Here

Some books can’t escape you. It’s not just your inner circle reading them; rather, it seems every bibliophile on the planet has picked up a copy at some point. You can’t explain why you haven’t done so yourself, but you know one day you will. And that day will be a good one.

The Nightingale has been that book for me the past few years. I’ve had multiple friends and family members rave about this historical fiction favorite, and one of them compared it to All the Light We Cannot See, a fellow World War II novel I adore. Surely I’d have the same feelings toward this one.

It’s had a far greater reach though. I’ve seen many subway riders reading it, and once I asked one of them what they thought about it.

“Oh I cried on here yesterday reading it.”

I owe my cousin, Julie, who sent me her copy of The Nightingale, among other books I can’t wait to read. Thanks to her, I could no longer be distracted by other novels. It was time to dive into this instant classic, and I’m so happy I did.

The Nightingale

Source: walmart.com

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These Lines Across My Face

Schools mandate history classes with the justification that they help prevent mistakes that became the downfalls of previous generations and eras. Don’t adults owe society the same proactive mindset as the prominent decision-makers? In a world as politically charged as ours in 2018, history couldn’t be more important, and fiction gives it the most interesting depiction. Literature not only reminds us of past tragedy but also of how to build from the rubble.

I’ve read a lot of World War II fiction, and that’s because this time period gives us some of the most intriguing, confusing, emotional, and heartbreaking stories of human existence. The hatred that was spread and also the love and kindness that were borne from this pain are incredibly relevant today. Books like Jessica Shattuck’s 2017 smash, The Women in the Castle, are of course tragic, beautiful, and complete page-turners, but they are also critical if we ever want to better our society and avoid repeating our darkest days.

The Women in the Castle

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Thanks for the Memories

  • What: Warlight
  • Who: Michael Ondaatje
  • Pages: 285, hard cover
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Everybody loves a good plot twist, myself included. In my review of Rich People Problems, in fact, I praised author Kevin Kwan for his ability to keep you guessing with one curveball after the next, which ensured the book was never dull (among other wonderful qualities). In retrospect, clues had been leading up to these revelations since book one, and nothing felt out of place.

I can’t quite say the same thing about Michael Ondaatje’s 2018 hit, Warlight. What saddens me about this conclusion is that I loved this book up to the ending. Ondaatje’s writing is beautiful and poetic, and it evokes the exact sadness and curiosity the characters feel. Ondaatje paints a mystery yearning to be told. But when he finally reveals the secrets, he does so with a twist too far out of left field that leaves you with a bad impression. Warlight, though exquisite, couldn’t quite close the deal, which is why I can’t quite give it more than three flames.

Warlight

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You’ve Got Me Feeling Emotions

  • What: My Dear Hamilton
  • Who: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
  • Pages: 621, soft cover (637 if you count the must-read “Note from the Authors” section)
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Published: 2018
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Remember my post about July 4th reads? It’s time to add one more.

What can I say about this book besides it was a roller coaster of emotions? Oy vey. I actually think my body and mind morphed into Eliza Hamilton’s. At one moment, I was praising Alexander Hamilton as the greatest American who ever lived — oh how we should bow down.

The next, he was the scum of the earth.

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Then, he was OK. A typical man. Nobody’s perfect after all.

Then came the existential depression.

And just as Monroe was ushering in the Era of Good Feelings to our country, I was starting to balance out again too.

The capricious emotions this book evoked are nothing new; in fact, they symbolize America’s complicated relationship with Hamilton. We want to love him, but his many faults don’t always make it easy. I’m sure the Mrs. would testify to that.

My Dear Hamilton

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