Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer – I watched the movie before I read the book (and loved the book even more!).

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin takes readers on a journey from Ireland to New York during the 1950s. The book is written in a melodic tone with such ease that I could not put it down; I yearned for more. Toibin has the ability to take everyday people and situations and bring out the extraordinary in them. Although there was nothing remarkable about the main character, I found her remarkable. The book is broken into four parts and I felt as though each part really could have been its own novel.

The story follows Eilis, a painfully ordinary young woman from a small town in Ireland, on the verge of being placed in a new world. Eilis leaves behind her mother and sister to travel to America and make a better life for herself. While in Brooklyn, she gets a job at a department store, takes night classes, and meets Tony, a charismatic Italian boy from a large family. After finally settling into her new life, she receives devastating news from Ireland that threatens to derail her. Should Eilis live the life she dreamed of in Brooklyn or the one she should have had in Ireland?

Recommended for those that like Jojo Moyes and Nora Roberts. This would make a perfect vacation read.

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Be Safe, Love Mom: A Military Mom’s Stories of Courage, Comfort, and Surviving Life on the Home Front by Elaine Lowry Brye

Be Safe, Love Mom: A Military Mom's Stories of Courage, Comfort, and Surviving Life on the Home Front

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Elaine Lowry Brye is an expert on surviving the military. As a veteran, daughter and granddaughter of soldiers, wife of a serviceman, and mother to four children in the military (all representing different branches), Elaine gives the most comprehensive advise for those with loved ones serving.

From the very start, this book is filled with page after page and story after story, of the bravery those left behind showcase. Not only does the reader feel like they know Elaine and her family but the other families whose stories are included as well. She gives practical advise and hope to those who love someone who are called to serve without judgement. Some of my favorite stories are when Elaine humbled herself by talking about moments when even she couldn’t keep it together. She also describes her time in country when she worked as a teacher in Kabul and when she was invited to introduce First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2012 Democratic Convention (and when she needed a boost from behind from Vice President Biden to get back up a step).

This book is a must read if you have anyone serving (or even if you don’t). It will give you a sense of understanding and hopefully inspire you to help those that sacrifice so much for our freedom and country. Even if you are not a fan of the military, this is a must read. I also recommend it to fiction writers who are needing a perspective on the homefront.

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Soldier’s Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers by Gary Paulsen

Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen is a quasi-true story about Charley Goddard from Minnesota who enlisted in the Union Army when he was 15, during the Civil War. Paulsen based the story and events on Charley’s real life but exaggerated some of the battles to fill out the plot.

Charley is an innocent young man when he enlists in the Army, thinking he will never see battle. He is driven by doing the right thing and often sees himself as an outsider in the ranks. Before too long, Charley is faced with the realities of war. In the end, it changes who he is and what his life will become.

This book starts off extremely slow but eventually picks up and I was able to get thought he last several chapters quickly. Charley seems distant and I would have preferred to have the voice of someone more invested in the unit. Overall, it would be a good read for reluctant male readers in the middle grades, if they can get past the first 3-4 chapters.

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Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Still Me

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was not a fan of Still Me by Jojo Moyes. Although I love her writing style (that’s what helped me finish the book), the plot was severely lacking in interest. I just wanted to slap some sense into Lou and be done with her story.

In Still Me, Louisa Clarke goes to New York to once again find out who she is….WHY DOESN’T SHE KNOW YET?!?!?! She is working as an assistant for a posh family and trying to find out where she fits in. There are several bumps along the way but they don’t stay true to their nature in all of them. Characters such as Nathan, Sam, and Lily are talked about throughout the book and their stories help unfold Lou’s.

Having read the entire series, I wish I would have stopped after the first one.

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Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Sarah, Plain and Tall (Sarah, Plain and Tall, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a cute story about how a little girl, Anna, and her brother, Caleb, meet Sarah, a would be mother to them. Since the death of their mother, shortly after Caleb was born, their Papa has been lonely and raising the two children. He decides to take out an advertisement for a wife and mother. Sarah, a spinster from Maine answers the ad and is soon on her way to the prairie.

This book is a sweet story but I think it is difficult for the young age its written for to understand it. My daughter who is 9 read this with me and was not captivated by the story as much as a girl 30 years ago might have been.

Recommended for a read-a-loud to young kids.

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a reread for me. I first read To Kill a Mockingbird, like most people, in high school. I remember not being impressed with it and read it only because it was assigned. I reread it this past year because so many of my students were reading it and I wanted to recall details about the story.

Upon my visitation to Maycomb, Alabama again, I found I really enjoyed the writing and crafting of this book much more than the plot. The story follows Scout, a young girl who witnesses racism on a daily basis. Her father is a prominent lawyer and is defending Tom Robinson who is a black man charged with raping a white woman. Through the story, it is clear Tom Robinson is not guilty but will the people of Maycomb agree?

Recommended to those who had to read this in high school to reread.

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After You by Jojo Moyes

After You (Me Before You, #2)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After You is the continuation of the story that began in Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I absolutely fell in love with the the main character, Louisa Clark, in the first book and still enjoyed her in this second installment.

After You follows Lou as she tries to come to terms with Will’s death. Unexpected people show up and she discovers more about the man she loved and lost. I enjoyed this books darker side. Lou is going through a tough time and becomes depressed joining a support group, trying to find herself again. This story holds so much truth about losing someone you love but we do see glimpses of the old Louisa.

I have already started the third book and cannot get enough of this series. The writing is superb!

Recommended to fans of quirky stories or fans of BritLit.

Purchase this book here.

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