The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

the woman in the window Anna has not left her house in a long while. She feels safe and secure at home, and that is where she stays. Her New York City home sits across from a park, looking straight into the neighbor’s window. Anna is not working right now, she is on a break from her practice as a child psychologist. With so much time on her hands, she begins to watch the neighborhood with detailed intensity. When a new family moves in across the park, something does not seem quite right. As she gets to know them more, she is convinced they are suspicious. When she believes she has witnesses a crime in the neighborhood, Anna loses all sense of reality and fiction. The story unravels in unpredictable twists, and devastating back story all woven into a suspenseful read.

If you are a lover of psychological thrillers, this is your book.

To Purchase at a local bookstore near you, click on:

IndieBound

Meet Clemantine Wamariya

The Girl who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

the girl who smiled beadsClementine has written a deeply moving account of her life as a Rwandan Refugee. At six years old she survived the genocide in Rwanda. For years, she lived through conditions that would break any human in two. The book travels back and forth from Clemetine’s adult life to her childhood in Africa. I learned so much about the roots of conflict and the ripple of devastation it spread. Clementine’s description of her feelings,  how she wrestled with the residual trauma are beyond moving. Without empathy for what others have suffered, we cannot treat others with compassion and kindness. I was gripped with sorrow, and amazed at the author’s fighting resilience.  This memoir is necessary and worth every moment. I am thankful she was brave enough to put this story into words, and I am thankful I read every one of them.

To Watch more about her life, watch her TED Talk:

Ted Talk

Look for this title at your local book store withIndie Bound

Best Books of 2017

My Favorite Books of 2017

eleanor Oliphant is completely fineBest Overall Character: Emily Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman– Emily is the most real, quirky, and charming character I have read in a long time. She has been through very difficult circumstances, and we meet her just as she is beginning to step out of a safe, but isolated life. I was moved, laughed, cringed, and cheered for her the whole way through.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: A Novel

the other einsteinBest Historical Fiction: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict– Did you know Albert Einstein’s wife was also a genius mathematician and physicist? This is a riveting and heartbreaking story of their love affair. It was fascinating.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Other Einstein: A Novel

 

wishtreeBest Middle Grade Novel: Wishtree by Catherine Applegate– Told from the perspective of a tree, the history, heartache, and hope of a little town is revealed by one little tree. Beautiful, imaginative, and wonderful.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Wishtree

 

when dimple met rishiBest Sophisticated Brain Candy: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon– When Dimple heads to Standford for a summer program, she has no idea her traditional Indian parents have betrothed her to another student in the program. Calamity ensues, and it is funny, sweet, and light. Sometimes you just need a light read, this is it, but well written.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: When Dimple Met Rishi

 

a long walk to waterBest Non-Fiction: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park– A simply stunning novel about the lost boys of Sudan. Everyone should read this book, and teachers or parents of 4th graders and up should add it to their read aloud list.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story

like water for chocolate

Best Re-Read: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel- This was a book club pick, I had read it in college, and loved reading it again. It is passionate, tragic, and beautiful.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

 

born a crime

Best Celebrity Novel: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah– Ever since the success of Tina Fey’s book, it gave license for nearly every celebrity to write a book. Most are not my favorite.  However, I learned a lot from Noah’s book. You will learn a little about slave history, apartheid, and hear Noah’s powerful life story.  A solid read, but not too challenging.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

2018 To Be Read List: (So Far) 

Peace Like a River by Lief Enger

Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary by Martha Brokenbrough

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

the alice networkCharlie boards a ship to Europe with her mother, pregnant, unwed, and a little angry. The Second World War has just ended, and nothing is right in Charlie’s life, or the world. Fed up with her mother, she sets out on her own as soon as she reaches England. Charlie’s cousin Rose, is missing in France.  She has one lead, a woman named Eve, and all the determination in the world.

Eve worked in a ring of women spies in World War One. Her job left her broken, bitter, and alone. Along comes Charlie, with questions Eve does not want to hear, much less answer. However, Eve must face the past eventually. Charlie and Eve form a very unlikely relationship and set out to find Rose.

The Alice Network flips back and forth between Eve and Charlie, and the First and Second World Wars. It is thrilling, distressing, and intriguing. There are many World War Two novels, however the timelines from each war weave together to deliver a fresh twist. The work of female spies is impressive, the author’s research at the end of the book is fascinating. An entertaining story from beginning to end.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Alice Network: A Novel

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

 

vinegar girlThis book kept me completely content through a long plane ride, the sign of a good read.

Our protagonist, Kate, is stuck in her spinster existence. She lives at home with her quirky, scientist father, a self-centered much younger sister. She has a dead-end job teaching preschool. Her life is ripe for romance. However, the road is never easy, and it proves to be rough in this story as well. Her father is convinced a green card marriage is the perfect solution for his daughter. It will keep his lab assistant in the country, and keep his daughter close to home. This plan is insulting to Kate, to say the least, but a bit of an exciting prospect for the lab partner. A sweet story of love and softening of hearts ensues, it is funny, quietly beautiful, and satisfying to the end. A lovely re-telling of a Shakespeare classic. It is compact and endearing.

To Purchase this book on Amazon click here:

Vinegar Girl: A Novel (Hogarth Shakespeare)

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

 

the underground railroadColson Whitehead uses an actual railroad under the ground as the center of the affecting tale of a slave’s s fight to be free. Cora is the lowest of all slaves on the plantation. Living in the hob, where the least desirable and most abused slaves are sentenced to live. She tends one small plot of dirt and grows a handful of her own vegetables. Even this pitiful plot of land is destroyed by a fellow slave. One night Cora takes her chance, and runs, beginning her journey on the train to freedom. With a fellow slave, her journey begins rough, and proves to be a grueling fight to live in peace. Stories of the horrors of slavery are nothing new in our literature, yet this book gets deep into the core of the depraved beliefs that kept freedom from so many people. Slave catchers hunt for Cora the entire book, bent on revenging her betrayal, and ultimately cleansing the world of black people. These horrors need to be read about and thought about, because prejudice is still alive today. This book is a sad journey, you will feel the depths of despair with Cora, but also clutch to hope alongside her. The Underground Railroad is an impeccable work of fiction. Let us all never forget the history before us and work to right the wrongs.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The Underground Railroad (Pulitzer Prize Winner) (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel

5 Books to Encourage Empathy

Each book featured here is written about children triumphing in harsh circumstances. I was moved deeply by each and every story. If you are a teacher or parent, read them with your children, they make for thoughtful discussion. If you are an avid reader, add them to your list, they are powerful stories worth every moment of your time.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War that saved my lifeThis book pierced my heart. I ached with the characters, cried for their pain, and rejoiced in their victories. Ada and her brother Jamie have lived with their mother void of all care and love for their entire existence. Ada was born with a clubfoot and has never left her small flat in London. The best thing to happen to these two children was World War II. The children are sent away from London for fear of bombing, and their life opens up great and wide.  They land on the doorstep of a kind woman, not at all prepared for tending to children.  They are all rescued through love. This is a story that proves the people you choose to love are your family. It is tender and full of redemption. It teaches children history, and a heaping serving of empathy and compassion.

To purchase this book on Amazon, click here: The War That Saved My Life

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

esperanza risingEsperanza has only known luxury, comfort, and love on her large ranch in Mexico. Her father is a good boss, providing well for the workers in his vineyards. When an uprising tears Esperanza’s family apart, her life of luxury is taken, and her world is forever changed.  Their family boards a train for the United States, hopeful to find work harvesting crops. I was reminded of The Secret Garden reading Esperanza’s first experiences with class differences and hunger. This book is imperative, it shows children the human side of immigration, and can be a perfect tool to discuss the issues facing our country right now. Esperanza learns to work hard, to humble herself, and that the power of a loving family can sustain you through very rough circumstances. The chapters follow the seasons as they harvest crops. I loved the framework it gave the story. If you teach middle grade novels, add this to your list of must reads. It can open up important discussions about immigration, refugees, and social justice. It is a superb book.

To Purchase this book on Amazon click here: Esperanza Rising

Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a treeSixth grade is hard; and even harder when reading seems impossible and bullies are a constant. For Ally Nickerson, school is grim, like living under a raincloud without a sunbreak in sight. However, a teacher named Mr. Daniels and two off beat characters come into Ally’s life, and become the sunbreak she has needed. Hunt writes about dyslexia with a pen of empathy, she brings understanding and compassion to a problem that many students face in school. Many themes resonate through this book, accepting yourself, and standing up for your friends, persevering through struggles, and looking at the world through someone else’s eyes.  If I taught intermediate students I would add this to a summer reading list. If I have a voracious reader who enjoys realistic fiction, I would feed it to them. If I knew a child with dyslexia I would read it out loud to them, so they could enjoy a story and cheer with Ally as she finds her courage, faces her challenges, and triumphs.

To purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Fish in a Tree

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

The Hundred DressesThe_Hundred_DressesWritten over sixty years ago, this classic story is powerful. Sadly, the themes are still relevant in present day struggles. This simple story exemplifies the pain of bullying and the regret of staying silent instead standing up for another person. Wanda is the child with a single parent lacking resources, a child learning English only at school, a child struggling to read, or any immigrant or oppressed people group. Wanda, the poor immigrant from Poland could be any child. This books shows bullying is wrong and hurtful, but passively letting it happen is equally as wrong. An affecting book to start a discussion.

To Purchase this book on amazon, click here: The Hundred Dresses

Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

counting by 7Living inside a truly brilliant mind is a gift and a trial.  For 12 year old willow Chance, both of these are true.  Willow is gifted beyond measure with a love of horticulture.  If you are my soulmate you read that sentence and thought, you had me at love of horticulture.  If you are not my soul mate, I will press on to sell you on this middle grade novel.  Willow does not fit in at school but is deeply loved by her parents, this grounds her and gives her the footing she needs in the world, until she enters 7th grade.  Her fashion choices, odd interests, and obsessions work against her.  Tragic strikes Willow and she is unmoored.  This is a story about unlikely heroes, how people change, and taking care of those around you, family or not.  This is a sweet and simple story and a quick read, but it will move you.  I loved seeing the world through Willow’s detailed and quirky mind.  I adored her knowledge of the natural world and the kinship she feels towards plants.  My own heart runs green with love for the science of growing things.  I hope you give Willow a Chance, it will be time well spent.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: Counting by 7s