After hearing numerous students gush about Shannon Messenger’s middle grade series The Keeper of the Lost Cities, I finally have read the first book myself. It lives up to their hype. Sophie makes a likable, admirable, and relatable protagonist. An encounter at a museum leads her to discover her identity as an elf, and the story follows her adjustment to a new world, family, and friends. Though she feels like an outsider at her new school as much as she did at her human one, she embraces her abilities and explores their potential. Vaguely reminiscent of Harry Potter, I find this a brighter alternative. Messenger achieves a great balance between world building and character development, and I find myself tearing through the pages. I’ve acquired the next installment already and happily reported to my students I enjoyed it (and thanked them for the recommendation).
Kate Clayborn’s recent Love Lettering invites readers to stroll New York City streets with a hopeful new friend. Meg and Reid met as Meg designed Reid’s wedding program, and he finds his way back to her office a year later because he discovers that she successfully guessed his relationship’s demise. Both at potential turning points in their life, they connect over their new goals. Clayborn utilizes the signs on the streets to give insight into the characters as they progress through their journeys on foot and in their hearts. They get their opportunities to step forward rather than stagnate, leaving readers with a reminder they too can face their obstacles to reach new heights. The signs point the way when they recognize the directives and follow.
Diana Biller’s debut novel The Widow of Rose House invites you into an atmospheric read perfect for the fall season. Though it takes place in a Gothic mansion in Gilded Age New York, it reads more like a modern love story. A possible ghost in a house Alva Webster moves into to restore serves as a vehicle for plot and character development. The setting details provide an escape, and the evolving love story invites reader engagement. Be warned neither the ghost nor the intimate scenes care to close doors. Yet also know Alva holds much more strength than may first meet the eye. This spooky tale has a hopeful outlook and demonstration of love.
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Jasmine Guillory’s latest romance Party of Two surpassed my expectations. With more substance and maturity than her previous stories, these characters had me not only rooting for their relationship but celebrating their personal growth. Lawyer Olivia Monroe and junior senator Max Powell have more age and career experience under their belts than the leads from The Wedding Date and The Proposal, and this serves to their advantage. They have a sense of their values and goals and take the time to consider how their next steps might or might not progress them. The communication and reflection may seem like they would slow down the story, but it allows the readers to savor the romance as well as contemplate healthy relationship adjustments.
Quick and Dirty offers tips for selecting sunscreen. Summer brings sunny times of fun that still require care, and this applies to all seasons.
These healthy foods can prevent clogged arteries. It makes me feel empowered to know I can avoid some damage. The bigger picture of heart health consists of numerous small choices.
Almost Famous turns 20 this month. I’m having an anniversary celebration weekend. Check out this Entertainment Weekly article for some fun set photos and memories of Cameron Crowe’s masterpiece.
I regularly send and receive letters, and that number has increased during the last several months. It feels good to know I can trust someone enough to share what I write and that they trust me in return. My steady pen pal and best friend has kept me company through supportive letters. This Washington Post article articulates the mental health benefits of letter writing.
In case you needed more enticement to watch Almost Famous, I present to you the trailer.
I read Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein with a friend as a fun way to connect while we don’t get to see each other. The story follows a predictable but fun romance plot when would have been Olympic gymnast Avery reconnects with another former athlete when she moves back to their hometown and they start working together. Their shared goal to get a talented gymnast into the 2020 Olympics makes a good central point for discussion points like the abuse scandal, career and purpose, healthy relationship dynamics, and more. While these issues don’t get detailed responses on the pages, the characters, particularly the women, make positive models for how empathy and empowerment can grow when people reflect and adjust. I would have loved to see more character development there but appreciate the strong frame. Overall, it makes a quick but fun and motivating read.
I recently have reread The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and have discovered a deeper appreciation than I had for it when I first tore through the first installment’s pages this time eleven years ago. In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins paints us a society we tell ourselves differs greatly from ours but that deserves our attention as a warning. Children regularly face publicized death in a system citizens fear to speak against. When Katniss Everdeen volunteers in place of her sister Prim, she sees herself as sacrificing her life in place of Prim’s. Yet she ignites a spark of hope instead.
Though the first time around I brushed off Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from Katniss Everdeen’s District 12, I have found a deep appreciation for his steadfastness. Only glimpsed in this introduction to the series, he shows the most unconditional love and stable support of his team. Katniss may look to her interests first, even if they are foremost for her family, but Peeta holds true to his values. This requires a look beyond the supposedly boring exterior presented through his seemingly lack of strength. A second read allows this opportunity of greater study of all the characters as well as Panem’s structure as a society.
The Hunger Games has brought Suzanne Collins notoriety for a reason. The books have an action-packed plot, the love triangle expected in a YA book, and likable characters. Seemingly an escape from reality, it offers a springboard for considerations about sacrifice, unconditional love, strength in all its forms, control, and rebellion. It has stirred a lot of contemplation in my mind when it comes to sacrifice, unconditional love, and mental health, particularly where those topics merge. I owe this series a token of gratitude for helping me see the strengths of the Peeta in my life.
Emily Henry’s romantic Beach Read offers all you hope to find during a coastal getaway. Packed with the flirtatious fun expected in a romantic comedy, Gus and January’s banter have you grinning constantly. Both authors facing deadlines and writer’s block, the former rivals unite in creating a challenge to finish their new books. Clever connections to classic movies, budding love, and a fun story setup keep you glued to Beach Read. To prove the story goes beyond the “everything is roses” layer, it explores deep topics as well. These issues allow character and relationship exploration that seal the book as a full picture of love and personal growth.
Abby Jimenez’s latest romance The Happy Ever After Playlist came into my orbit thanks to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide. The quick banter between Sloan and Tucker hooked me immediately. I found myself smiling at their quips, rooting for the relationship to evolve. The Happy Ever After Playlist maintained its fun tone throughout but unpacked some weight later in the story. Seemingly small yet realistic issues came to light, showing the characters making tough decisions to balance personal, career, and relationship goals. Themes of resilience and friendship abounded as Abby Jimenez’s characters moved forward in their lives. The story made a delightful escape as I stayed home and walked through the delights involved with falling in love, stepping forward in a career, and building emotional strength after setbacks by reading Sloan’s story.
Sarah Addison Allen weaves magic into real life, and the enchanting Lost Lake does not disappoint. Emerging from her initial mourning period, widow Kate takes her daughter to Lost Lake for fresh perspective. The destination that used to draw crowds for vacations no longer holds its allure, but it still pulls Kate and Devin into its orbit. They connect with the regulars at the lake as they too face new adjustments. Together, they find hope and resilience no matter their ages. Rich in backstory, small town camaraderie, and love, Lost Lake has you rooting for its characters to reach their next growth point.