Book Review 5: Little Mercies

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf is one of those rare breed of authors who truly never lets you down. Sure, there are those who write and who write well, but it’s almost like going to a restaurant and ordering a meal and expecting it to be the same the next time. The texture is the same, the flavor is the same, but there’s something off about the meal. It’s just not as good as it was the first time and you find yourself wishing you could go back to that moment, to the very first time you ate that delicious dinner and pinpoint exactly what the mystery ingredient is.

But reading Heather Gudenkauf is like being able to experience that first amazing meal over and over again. In short? She doesn’t disappoint.

Little Mercies follows Ellen Moore, a dedicated social worker who is truly a bleeding heart for all of the neglected and abused children out there, after an accident thrusts her into the spotlight as a neglectful mother. Ellen has seen it all; the good, the bad, the ugly, but she never thought she would fit into the latter categories, but after a hectic morning, Ellen misses a crucial detail, her youngest daughter Avery whom has been left in her car in the sweltering summer heat.

As a reader who has been subjected to quite a few real life stories this summer on the news featuring parents leaving children in the car, it was frustrating. And yet, as a human being, a person who understands how frantic life can get, I found myself sympathizing with Ellen and crying right along with her, fervently stating, “It was an accident!”

As we’re there with Ellen and her family as they go through the motions in the aftermath of such a tragedy, we also meet Jenny Briard, a young girl who has traveled a long way by herself, a girl who has a connection to Ellen that neither are aware of.

Gudenkauf is able to weave this incredible web of connectivity where the ripples are unseen by the naked eye, but very much present. In the end we’re left to decide what should have happened, what shouldn’t have happened, why these events took place, and if there really is a bit of mercy even in the wake of destruction.

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Book 4 Review: Just Between Us

Just Between Us by J.H. Trumble

There are many good, enjoyable books out there; some of them you miss after the fact; however, the ones that grip you and stay with you long after seem far and few between. This book definitely belongs in that category.

To be honest, the first thing that jumped out at me with this book was the cover. I found it by accident under my Young Adult recs and I am so happy I did. Of course once I saw who the author was I was completely on board, having read Where You Are earlier this year and enjoyed that one thoroughly as well.

But this book, oh this book. What can I say except for the feels. Luke Chesser is such an endearing character. He is so easy to relate to and love. I know he gets a bad rap from Trumble’s previous novel in which he was a minor character, Don’t Let Me Go (which I didn’t even realize Luke was a part of. So, of course I had to read that, too) but haven’t we all been a Luke? Whatever our gender, age, or sexual orientation, we’ve probably fallen for someone unattainable and then met someone else who is just as amazing who we fall even harder for and head over heels in love with, and unlike the previous relationship, this one is meant to last. And yet, what happens when the person we love has had their world rocked with a life changing diagnosis, and won’t let us be there for them?

This is the question Just Between Us explores, and does it with aplomb. Luke’s dealing with a lot when he develops a rocky-at-first bond with Curtis Cameron. In short, he’s had his heart broken by a guy who was in love with someone else, and his father is abusive and homophobic. To say he is unsupportive of Luke’s life is an understatement. Add to that Luke can be a bit of klutz on the field with his marching band and you get a picture of how not perfect things are in the beginning of this book for Luke.

And then there’s Curtis. Charming, confident, older. A band legend. How could Luke not fall for him, and when the two get to know each other better, how could he not fall for Luke? But just as in life, love and relationships are never easy, which is something we see happen to Curtis and Luke.

Just as things are really blossoming between the two of them, Curtis gets devastating news. He’s HIV positive after having a little too much fun his freshman year of college. Suddenly Curtis pulls back from his loving family and Luke, ashamed of himself, afraid of hurting someone else, not able to come to grips with the fact that he still has a long life ahead of him, and doing everything in his power to ignore his situation.

It’s so painful to watch Curtis keep Luke an at arm’s length, especially when anyone can see how much they love each other. There were so many times I wanted to jump into the book and knock some sense into Curtis, but reading every emotion he was feeling, I couldn’t help but hurt for him.

Trumble brings us back to an important topic: HIV. For some reason we have stopped talking about it and even thinking about it, but this story is proof that the stigma still exists as does the virus.

In the end, we’re there with Luke and Curtis as they struggle to come to terms with their relationship and left moved at their resolution

It’s been over a month since I finished this book, and I’m still thinking about these two, rooting for them and wishing I could stay with them a bit longer in their world just to ensure they are happy and in love, because despite whatever hardships and obstacles a relationship may face, unconditional love is always beautiful and can bring forth a rainbow after the darkest of storms.

If you haven’t read this book, you should. Like, now. And while you’re at it, read DLMG and WYA, also by Trumble.

I’m back/Book review #3

So, this was meant to be a blog where I reviewed books and television, but life got in the way. Now I am back with a vengeance!

Book review 3: Learning Not to Drown  by Anna Shinoda

This book was good, but haunting, like eerily haunting. I thought it was a very interesting and well-written premise about a family dealing with a son and brother who is an addict and whose addiction causes him to be in and out of jail.

Clare’s memories of older brother Luke are romanticized in a way. She only remembers the good and believes Luke will change, but then something happens that forces the truth about Luke to come out and Clare is faced head on with how she feels about Luke and how she’ll subsequently deal with the fallout.

Clare’s parents – her mother more so than her father – were difficult to sympathize with and really the part that made me want to throw my kindle against the wall. And that’s not a criticism of the author. Quite the opposite. It elicited such an emotional response because it’s so easy to understand how when one of your children is ‘broken’ according to societal standards, you become stagnant in denial land and your other children fall through the cracks; however, Clare’s mother’s stance of protecting Luke makes her very emotionally and verbally abusive to her other children, especially Clare, which was hard to read.

I agree when others say this is an emotional roller coaster of a book. Still, it’s a book I thoroughly enjoyed despite the uncomfortable parts.