A Boy Made of Blocks

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A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

As per Goodreads:
In the tradition of Nick Hornby and David Nicholls comes a warm and tender novel in which a father and his autistic son connect over the game of Minecraft.

Alex loves his family, and yet he struggles to connect with his eight-year-old autistic son, Sam. The strain has pushed his marriage to the breaking point. So Alex moves in with his merrily irresponsible best friend on the world’s most uncomfortable blow-up bed.

As Alex navigates single life, long-buried family secrets, and part-time fatherhood, his son begins playing Minecraft. Sam’s imagination blossoms and the game opens up a whole new world for father and son to share. Together, they discover that sometimes life must fall apart before you can build a better one.

Inspired by the author’s own relationship with his autistic son, A Boy Made of Blocks is a tear-jerking, funny, and, most, of all true-to-life novel about the power of difference and one very special little boy.

My comments:

I loved this book so much.  The straight forward writing makes for easy reading as Alex tells us his heartfelt story.  Alex’s eight year old son, Sam, diagnosed with autism, has some difficult behaviors that create stress in the house so Alex spends most of his time at the office, hence his marriage is on the rocks.  After moving out of his home and leaving his wife and son alone, he moves in with an old friend and the reality that he needs to make big changes sinks in. His marriage, his connection with his son,his unfulfilling job, and dealing with the loss of his brother all need some attention.  Alex has to face what haunts him from the past to tackle the challenges ahead.  While helping guide Sam he tells him “Life is an adventure, not a walk. That’s why it is difficult. ”

Author Keith Stuart takes us on the realistic journey of loss, the ups and downs of relationships, parenting, and the continual task of understanding and connecting with our children which may entail trying multiple tactics and revising expectations along the way.  He says “life puts up so many barriers to people who are different. Any tool that helps us to appreciate those people- whoever they are, however they differ from us- is a precious thing. ”  Stuart has a child on the autism scale and although this book is not about his own son it feels authentic.  He also writes about video games for a living and his son’s experiences with Minecraft were an inspiration for this story.

 

I have enjoyed several other novels that depict characters with autism or have tendencies that indicate they are on the spectrum.  I highly recommend these three below.

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Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb
As per Goodreads:
Sent to a therapeutic community for autism at the age of eleven, Todd Aaron, now in his fifties, is the Old Fox of Payton LivingCenter. A joyous man who rereads the encyclopedia compulsively, he is unnerved by the sudden arrivals of a menacing new staffer and a disruptive, brain-injured roommate. His equilibrium is further worsened by Martine, a one-eyed new resident who has romantic intentions and convinces him to go off his meds to feel normal again. Undone by these pressures, Todd attempts an escape to return home to his younger brother and to a childhood that now inhabits only his dreams. Written astonishingly in the first-person voice of an autistic, adult man, Best Boy with its unforgettable portraits of Todd s beloved mother, whose sweet voice still sings from the grave, and a staffer named Raykene, who says that Todd reflects the beauty of His creation is a piercing, achingly funny, finally shattering novel no reader can ever forget.”

My comments:

Eli Gottlieb did a nice job writing in the voice of an autistic man. Seeing the world through the eyes of Todd Aaron was enlightening; it provided insight into what possible thoughts could lead to subsequent behaviors in a man diagnosed with a mental disability. Although we may never know exactly what goes on in someone else’s head or body due to a medical condition or as a result of medications, Best Boy shows us what could be true.

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
As per Goodreads:
An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don’s Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

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Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

As per Goodreads:

Reclusive literary legend M. M. “Mimi” Banning has been holed up in her Bel Air mansion for years, but now she’s writing her first book in decades and to ensure timely completion her publisher sends an assistant to monitor her progress. Mimi reluctantly complies—with a few stipulations: No Ivy Leaguers or English majors. Must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane.

When Alice Whitley arrives at the Banning mansion, she’s put to work right away—as a full-time companion to Frank, the writer’s eccentric nine-year-old, a boy with the wit of Noël Coward, the wardrobe of a 1930s movie star, and very little in common with his fellow fourth graders.

As she gets to know Frank, Alice becomes consumed with finding out who his father is, how his gorgeous “piano teacher and itinerant male role model” Xander fits into the Banning family equation—and whether Mimi will ever finish that book.

Full of heart and countless only-in-Hollywood moments, Be Frank With Me is a captivating and heartwarming story of an unusual mother and son, and the intrepid young woman who finds herself irresistibly pulled into their unforgettable world.

 

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Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

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A beautifully written story about a flawed family who’s memories and hopes over time get confused with reality.  Ingrid, a college student, and Gil, her professor, have an unconventional love affair leading to pregnancy. This forces Ingrid to give up her academic goals in order to marry Gil and raise her two daughters, Flora and Nan.  Gil’s primary focus is  writing and all his family responsibilities are neglected while his relationships go unnurtured.  During the couples years together, Ingrid writes letters to Gil about how she is feeling about motherhood, their marriage, and what she discovers about him, but instead of giving him the letters she hides them in his books.  Then one day she is gone.  Did she drown like many are saying or did she run away from the life she had with Gil and her young daughters?

Years later the daughters return home to take care of Gil who has been in an accident.  He has fallen while chasing a woman he thinks is his wife, Ingrid.  One daughter insists he was wrong and going senile while the other is open to the possibility of her mother miraculously being alive.  There was never any proof of death and when the girls were younger Gil had said “It is difficult to live with both hope and grief,” she may be waiting for us when we get home, or, she’s dead. “A balancing act.”  And later on in age he questioned whether it is better to live with imagination and hope or to know the truth. Ultimately he told his daughters it is not good to “have an imagination which is more vivid, wilder, than real life”.

Gil was the proclaimed writer yet he only wrote one book, which Ingrid spawned and dictated to him.  She wrote all the letters to him expressing her feelings and recounting their courtship and marriage.  He was a dreamer, a philanderer and a collector of books with writings in the margins.  His interest was in the handwritten notes; they told him about the reader.  He said, “Without readers there is no point in books, and therefore they are as important as the author, perhaps more important.”   Ingrid gave up her hopes and dreams and struggled with marriage and being a mother and Gil’s lack of success as a writer, husband and father made for a heartbreaking story.

Author Claire Fuller delves into love, a dysfunctional marriage, and contemplates the value of truth and living with unrealistic hope.  The complex characters deal with their own selective memories and ambiguous loss where there is no closure.  Swimming Lessons was an engrossing, thought-provoking novel.

Nadia Hashimi – Author Obsession

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It is very exciting to discover an author who’s novels are so compelling, educational and engrossing that I want to read everything they have written. Nadia Hashimi is one of those brilliant and heartfelt authors. Her writing is smart and rich in history and traditions. Over the past few years she has published three fantastic novels, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell, When The Moon Is Low, and A House Without Windows. She also wrote a YA book, One Half from the East which came out in Sept. 2016.

 

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Below are excerpts from the author’s bio on Goodreads…

Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. Both her parents were born in Afghanistan and left in the early 1970s, before the Soviet invasion. Her mother, granddaughter of a notable Afghan poet, traveled to Europe to obtain a Master’s degree in civil engineering and her father came to the United States, where he worked hard to fulfill his American dream and build a new, brighter life for his immediate and extended family.

Nadia was fortunate to be surrounded by a large family of aunts, uncles and cousins, keeping the Afghan culture an integral part of their daily lives.

Nadia attended Brandeis University where she obtained degrees in Middle Eastern Studies and Biology. In 2002, she made her first trip to Afghanistan with her parents who had not returned to their homeland since leaving in the 1970s.

It was a bittersweet experience for everyone, finding relics of childhood homes and reuniting with loved ones.

Nadia enrolled in medical school in Brooklyn and became active with an Afghan-American community organization that promoted cultural events and awareness, especially in the dark days after 9/11. She graduated from medical school and went on to complete her pediatric training at NYU/Bellevue hospitals in New York City. On completing her training, Nadia moved to Maryland with her husband where she works as a pediatrician.

She’s also a part of the “Lady Docs,” a group of local female physicians who exercise, eat and blog together.

With her rigorous medical training completed, Nadia turned to a passion that had gone unexplored. Her upbringing, experiences and love for reading came together in the form of stories based in the country of her parents and grandparents (some even make guest appearances in her tales!).

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The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was released  in 2014.

As stated in Goodreads:
In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.

But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.

Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?

 

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When The Moon Is Low was published in 2015.

As stated in Goodreads:

Mahmoud’s passion for his wife Fereiba, a schoolteacher, is greater than any love she’s ever known. But their happy, middle-class world—a life of education, work, and comfort—implodes when their country is engulfed in war, and the Taliban rises to power.

Mahmoud, a civil engineer, becomes a target of the new fundamentalist regime and is murdered. Forced to flee Kabul with her three children, Fereiba has one hope to survive: she must find a way to cross Europe and reach her sister’s family in England. With forged papers and help from kind strangers they meet along the way, Fereiba make a dangerous crossing into Iran under cover of darkness. Exhausted and brokenhearted but undefeated, Fereiba manages to smuggle them as far as Greece. But in a busy market square, their fate takes a frightening turn when her teenage son, Saleem, becomes separated from the rest of the family.

Faced with an impossible choice, Fereiba pushes on with her daughter and baby, while Saleem falls into the shadowy underground network of undocumented Afghans who haunt the streets of Europe’s capitals. Across the continent Fereiba and Saleem struggle to reunite, and ultimately find a place where they can begin to reconstruct their lives.

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A House Without Windows was published in 2016.
As stated in Goodreads:
For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice.
Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed. As Zeba awaits trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have also led them to these bleak cells: thirty-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an honor killing; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, who ran away from home with her teenage sister but now stays in the prison because it is safe shelter; and nineteen-year-old Mezhgan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for her lover’s family to ask for her hand in marriage. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, as they have been, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment. Removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.
Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer, whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his motherland have brought him back. With the fate of this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.
A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, A House Without Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

 

My comments:

In A House Without Windows, Nadia Hashimi shows us how honor and integrity pay a significant role in the lives of Afghan women. She also gives us an indication of how men rule the court system and how women’s prisons are full of modern Afghan women who have fallen victim to acts of violence and misfortunes by men. The people of the country have great respect for spiritual leaders, sorcerers and special powers/magic-like spells, and family honor is of utmost importance and runs deep. Even though this novel takes place in current times it feels old fashioned with superstition a real part of the belief system of the people. I love a mysterious crime and a court case. When it is set in a tradition rich, male driven country with multiple, strong women characters with flaws and good intent, I am in heaven!

Nadia Hashimi’s writing is brilliant and A House Without Windows, The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When The Moon Is Low all take the reader on intense, soul seeking journeys with strong, determined and deep thinking women of Afghanistan.

 

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One Half from the East is a YA novel published in 2016.

As seen in Goodreads:

Internationally bestselling author Nadia Hashimi’s first novel for young readers is an emotional, beautiful, and riveting coming-of-age journey to modern-day Afghanistan that explores life as a bacha posh—a preteen girl dressed as a boy.

Obayda’s family is in need of some good fortune.

Her father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion, forcing the family to move from their home city of Kabul to a small village, where life is very different and Obayda’s father almost never leaves his room.

One day, Obayda’s aunt has an idea to bring the family luck—dress Obayda, the youngest of her sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh.

Now Obayda is Obayd.

Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. The two of them can explore the village on their own, climbing trees, playing sports, and more.

But their transformation won’t last forever—unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure.

Clare Mackintosh – Author Obsession

Nothing beats a heart pounding psychological thriller to keep you looking over your shoulder! Clare Mackintosh has done it twice with her novels I Let You Go andSee You. I loved them both!  Be prepared for the twists and turns every step of the way…and don’t forget to breath!

 

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As seen on Goodreads:
In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

 

 

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As seen on Goodreads:
You do the same thing every day.

You know exactly where you’re going.

You’re not alone.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there. There’s no explanation: just a website, a grainy image and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

I See You is an edge-of-your-seat, page-turning psychological thriller from one of the most exciting and successful British debut talents of 2015.

 

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As seen on Goodreads:

Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant and is the founder of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival. She now writes full time and lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and their three children.

Clare’s debut novel, I Let You Go, is a Sunday Times bestseller and was the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It was selected for both the Richard and Judy Book Club, and was the winning title of the readers’ vote for the summer 2015 selection, and ITV’s Loose Women’s Loose Books. Her second novel, I See You, is a number 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Clare’s books are translated into more than 30 languages.

Clare is the patron of the Silver Star Society, an Oxford-based charity which supports the work carried out in the John Radcliffe Hospital’s Silver Star unit, providing special care for mothers with medical complications during pregnancy.

 

The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan

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Billy Brennan is overweight, 401 lbs to be exact. He and his wife Tricia just lost their oldest teenage son Michael to suicide, and with no recollection of the boy being unhappy and no note of explanation, they are blindsided and distraught. This horrific tragedy has left the family in shambles. As the couple and their 3 remaining children struggle in their grief to reclaim an element of normalcy, Billy steps out of his typical complacency and decides he will make a big change in his own life and attempt to get healthy in honor of his beloved son. With a unwavering commitment to lose 200 pounds, organize a walk to raise money for suicide prevention and film a documentary to publicize this terrible and prevalent occurrance, he pushes forward with determination while his family chooses not to support him and his efforts as they deal with their grief in their own ways.

Ethel Rohan does a fine job showing us some of the challenges of weight loss and the struggles brought on by suicide in broad strokes. Billy is a likable character and despite his lack of support from the family, the community starts to rally behind him.  I was rooting him on every step of the way as his effort picked up momentum. I found the relationship development with Billy and his wife and other children to be a little shallow at times and reenactment of playing with his deceased son with the wooden toys a bit odd for a grown man, but grief can be expressed in many ways. Despite dealing with the sensitive topics of obesity and suicide, The Weight of Him was a very enjoyable and quick read.

 

 

Book Giveaway!

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I have one copy of Breaking and Holding by Judy Fogarty to give away.  Please answer the question “Who is your favorite professional tennis player of all time?” here on the blog in the comments below and share Book Nation by Jen on Facebook or Twitter.  A winner will be chosen on February 24th!

 

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Some of my favorite tennis players of all time!

Breaking and Holding by Judy Fogarty

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When Patricia finds a telltale sign of another woman having been in the bed she shares with her husband Jack, a man more than two decades her senior, she decides to take some time alone and spend the summer on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Many years prior, Jack rescued Patricia from a lonely childhood and although he provided her opportunity for a life with security he was controlling. As she emotionally struggles to break away, her best friend, Lynn offers advise and support and when Patricia meets a young, handsome tennis player, Terry, a few years younger than her, she is vulnerable. An undeniable attraction is obvious and a beautiful, forbidden romance blooms.

Patricia and Terry share intimate secrets but obstacles arise in their relationship, which has developed into more than just a summer fling. Jack’s business is in trouble and he demands Patricia return home. Terry’s sponsor opportunities as a tennis pro are slim and his only possibility for financial support is Nona, a manipulative, lonely woman who demands he spend time with her and away from distractions.

Past tragedies and missteps lead to secrets and more hurt but these complex characters slowly reveal their truths and mend fences along the way.
The relationships of family and friends, the absence of family and friends, age and stage and love and money and needs and secrets with the backdrop of Kiawah Island and the tennis circuit make Breaking and Holding engaging, thought provoking and a juicy, quick read.

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About the Author as stated in Goodreads:

Judy Fogarty lives, writes, reads, and runs on the historic Isle of Hope in her native Savannah, Georgia. She holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance and Literature from the University of Illinois and has served as marketing director for private golf and tennis communities in the Savannah/Hilton Head area. She is a devoted—even rowdy—tennis fan, as anyone who has had the pleasure—or displeasure—of watching a professional match with her will attest. Breaking and Holding is Judy’s debut novel. She is happily at work on her second, enjoying as always the invaluable support of her husband, Mike, and children, Colin and Sara Jane.

Fiction You Shouldn’t Miss

Great new books are being published all the time and it is not easy to keep up.  Here are several of my favorite fictional novels from the recent past.  Have you read them all?

 

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Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

As stated in Goodreads:

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

 

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

As stated in Goodreads:

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

 

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

As stated in Goodreads:

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

 

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The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

As stated in Goodreads:

Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.

Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.

 

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Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

As stated in Goodreads:

In this striking literary debut, Carol Rifka Brunt unfolds a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

 

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The Rent Collector by Cameron Wright

As stated in Goodreads:

Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the bad-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money–a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past.

The Rent Collector is a story of hope, of one woman’s journey to save her son and another woman’s chance at redemption.

 

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

As stated in Goodreads:

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

 

 

Nonfiction recommendations for you!

It’s the doldrums of winter and you may have a vacation planned or you may be snowed in, but either way, use any extra time to catch up on your reading, expand your knowledge base, understand others’ perspectives and enjoy a little nonfiction. Here are some wonderful books not to be missed.

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Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance
As stated in Goodreads:
From a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town, that offers a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class. Part memoir, part historical and social analysis, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is a fascinating consideration of class, culture, and the American dream.

 

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When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
As stated in Goodreads:
At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air, which features a Foreword by Dr. Abraham Verghese and an Epilogue by Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a young neurosurgeon at Stanford, guiding patients toward a deeper understanding of death and illness, and finally into a patient and a new father to a baby girl, confronting his own mortality.

 

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Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
As stated in Goodreads:
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century’s great, unequal cities.

In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.

 

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Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World by Seth Siegel
As stated in Goodreads:
As every day brings urgent reports of growing water shortages around the world, there is no time to lose in the search for solutions.
Beautifully written, Let There Be Water is and inspiring account of the vision and sacrifice by a nation and people that have long made water security a top priority. Despite scant natural water resources, a rapidly growing population and economy, and often hostile neighbors, Israel has consistently jumped ahead of the water innovation-curve to assure a dynamic, vital future for itself. Every town, every country, and every reader can benefit from learning what Israel did to overcome daunting challenges and transform itself from a parched land into a water superpower.

If you want to learn more about how you can help with the water crisis check out Innovation Africa, a worthy organization that is making a difference.

 

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Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
As Stated in Goodreads:
Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.