Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

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I loved this memorable and touching children’s story about a little girl who lives in a graveyard in the Philippines with her mother and her struggle to find her mother when she goes missing. Appropriate for grades 4 to 7, in my opinion, it sensitively tells Nora’s story while focusing on themes of friendship and loyalty.

I was fascinated with this idea of living in a cemetery, and here’s a great article with pictures in it from the New York Times about North Cemetery in Manila, where this story takes place.

Thanks, Net Galley, for my review e-copy! This title publishes in the beginning of October (2018).

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Eagle & Crane by Suzanne Rindell

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I had never read a title by Suzanne Rindell, but I chose this book from Net Galley since I love WWII stories. The novel centers on three main characters: Louis, one of the many children of a poor farmer who carries a grudge against the Japanese family next door; Harry, the son of the Japanese farmers; and Ava, a young girl who is part of an itinerant circus group. When their paths cross, the boys sign on to be part of an air circus, doing stunts in the sky. However, as WWII reaches the US, Harry’s family is sent to an internment camp and forever changed, while Louis must struggle with his family’s long-held feud, and Ava must decide where her love lies.

I really enjoyed this story and particularly liked the characters. It’s always fun to read about California, where I grew up, and in one scene they visit the Napa Valley (yeah!). I would love to see this novel made into a movie. I bet it would have beautiful cinematography!

This may be my first Suzanne Rindell novel, but it won’t be my last. Thank you for my review e-copy!

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Us Against You by Frederik Backman

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I absolutely love the writing of Frederik Backman. His novel A MAN CALLED OVE made me both laugh and cry. His story of a hockey town in crisis, BEARTOWN, also made me cry. This summer he has a new novel out, a sequel to BEARTOWN, called US AGAINST YOU. It takes up the story of the families of Beartown and brings them through the next year as they continue to struggle and cope with the actions and activities of the past. Peter and Kira struggle with their marriage. Maya struggles with trying to live her life in the shadow of her assault. Leo struggles with adolescence. And throughout, the lives of these very ordinary people are set against the struggles of a hockey team (with a new coach) and the rivalry Beartown has with neighboring Hed. “Rivalry” might be too tame of a word for it, though.

One of Backman’s gifts as a writer is that he takes the very ordinary and makes it extraordinary. He can craft a simple moment and make it memorable; and he gets to the heart of emotion and humanity in doing so.

If you haven’t read Beartown, it makes most sense to read that novel first, but this can be a stand alone title as well.

Highly recommended! Thank you for my review e-copy from Net Galley!

Here’s the overview:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Beartown returns with “a lyrical look at how a community heals, how families recover and how individuals grow” (The Washington Post).

A small community tucked deep in the forest, Beartown is home to tough, hardworking people who don’t expect life to be easy or fair. No matter how difficult times get, they’ve always been able to take pride in their local ice hockey team. So it’s a cruel blow when they hear that Beartown ice hockey might soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in the neighboring town of Hed, take in that fact. As the tension mounts between the two adversaries, a newcomer arrives who gives Beartown hockey a surprising new coach and a chance at a comeback.

Soon a team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; always dutiful and eager-to-please Bobo; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the town’s enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big game approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt intensifies. By the time the last goal is scored, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after everything, the game they love can ever return to something as simple and innocent as a field of ice, two nets, and two teams. Us against you.

Here is a declaration of love for all the big and small, bright and dark stories that give form and color to our communities. With immense compassion and insight, Fredrik Backman reveals how loyalty, friendship, and kindness can carry a town through its most challenging days.

Christmas on the Coast by Rebecca Boxall

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This was one of my many holiday reading picks from Net Galley this year. I really enjoyed this story that jumped between current day and WWII, as a woman reads her great-aunt diary.

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WAIT FOR THE RAIN by Maria Murnane

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The very lovely Maria Murnane sent me an e-copy of her novel, WAIT FOR THE RAIN, along with her novel BRIDGES (reviewed here earlier). I chose to end my summer with it.

This is a realistic but feel-good story about a young woman getting herself back on her feet after going through a divorce:

From the author of the bestselling Waverly Bryson series.

Daphne White is staring down the barrel of forty—and is distraught at what she sees. Her ex-husband is getting remarried, her teenage daughter hardly needs her anymore, and the career she once dreamed about has somehow slipped from her grasp. She’s almost lost sight of the spirited and optimistic young woman she used to be.

As she heads off to a Caribbean island to mark the new decade with her best friends from college, Daphne’s in anything but the mood to celebrate. But when she meets Clay Hanson, a much younger man, she ignores her inner voice warning her that she’s too old for a fling. In fact, this tropical getaway might be the perfect opportunity to picture her future in a new sun-drenched light.

With the help of her friends, Daphne rediscovers her enthusiasm for life, as well as her love for herself—and realizes that her best years are still ahead.

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I think just about anyone can find something in common with one of these characters, who are quite believable. I couldn’t help but root for Daphne, and believe me – I know what she was going through.

Easy to read with a realistic but fun plot and likable characters, both WAIT FOR THE RAIN and BRIDGES are winners for me.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing your novels with me!

BRIDGES by Maria Murnane

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A while ago I was contacted by the very pleasant author of this novel, Maria Murnane, to see if I’d like to read and review her novels – BRIDGES and WAITING FOR THE RAIN. I had a tbr list of 35 titles, but said yes and Ms. Murnane has been quite patient in awaiting my thoughts on her novels!

This appealing story covers a long weekend in NYC when three best friends from college get together for a girls’ weekend. Each woman has something on her mind and challenges she is facing. Here’s the overview from Amazon:

It’s a piece of news Daphne never expected to hear: Her globe-trotting friend Skylar, who vowed never to get married, is engaged! Time to celebrate in Manhattan—Skylar’s treat, of course. After years scaling the corporate ladder, she can more than afford it.

Daphne arrives in NYC with news of her own—the novel she’s finally finished appears to be going nowhere but the trash bin of every publishing house around. She’s devastated but plans to keep her disappointment under wraps, something that becomes trickier when she sees Skylar’s spectacular apartment. Could her life have been like this if she’d chosen a different path?

What Daphne doesn’t know is she’s not the only one with a secret. Skylar and their friend KC are also holding something back, but what? As the trip unfolds, the truth about each woman emerges, along with tears.

And laughter. And love.

The fun-loving trio readers fell for in Wait for the Rain is together once more. Here’s to the power of friendship!

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The women in this story are all around 40 years old, and that really appealed to me, because personally I have trouble connecting with free-wheeling 20-somethings that often are peppered throughout books like this. These women’s challenges are familiar and their relationship is one that has gone through the test of time, reminding me of my own friends. While certainly problems exist, this is a light read, perfect for summer, with likable characters and an uplifting and positive ending. I really enjoyed it!

Here’s some info on Maria:

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Biography

The story of how Maria became an author is a little crazy. She used to work in high-tech PR but hated it, so she quit and ended up playing semi-pro soccer in Argentina for a year. While she was down there she decided to write a novel, which was something she’d always dreamed of doing. Fast forward a few years, and she’s now the bestselling author of the Waverly Bryson series (Perfect on Paper, It’s a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind, and Chocolate for Two, which garnered a starred review in Publishers Weekly), plus Katwalk, 2015 International Book Award winner Cassidy Lane, Wait for the Rain, and Bridges. And yes, she still plays a lot of soccer!

Learn more and sign up for her mailing list at http://www.mariamurnane.com

If you enjoy Maria’s books, please tweet @mariamurnane and “like” her fan page at http://www.facebook.com/mariamurnane.

To contact her via email, send a note to maria@mariamurnane.com. She loves hearing from readers and personally responds to every message!

THANK YOU so much for my review copy of BRIDGES! WAITING FOR THE RAIN (which has the same characters and actually comes before this title) is next!

One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn

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I found this title online and was happy to receive it through Net Galley for my iPad.

It is billed as a children’s book, but I think the content more appropriate for YA or adults. (similar to the conversations about WOLF HOLLOW — is that really a children’s book? I say not).

In this novel, young Annie is the new girl at school and she snubs an unpopular but clingy and unkind girl, who then contracts influenza and haunts Annie. Lots to think and talk about with this one in regards to how we treat others, and/or in the historical context of WWI.

Here’s the overview:

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Again — it’s not just for children! I enjoyed it and read it straight through in a sitting.
Thank you for my review copy!