‘When Life Gives You Mangos’ by Kereen Getten | Book Review

Book Review: When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten

When Life Gives You Mangos by Kereen Getten
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Length: 208 pages
Genre: Children’s Fiction (Middle Grade)
Release Date: September 15, 2020

Synopsis

For fans of deeply poignant middle grade about friendship and loss like The Thing About Jellyfish, comes the story about a young girl who can’t remember anything from her previous summer after a hurricane.

Twelve-year-old Clara lives on an island that visitors call exotic. But there’s nothing exotic about it to Clara. She loves eating ripe mangos off the ground, running outside in the rain with her Papa during rainy season, and going to her secret hideout with Gaynah–even though lately she’s not acting like a best friend.

The only thing out of the ordinary for Clara is that something happened to her memory that made her forget everything that happened last summer after a hurricane hit. Sometimes things come back to her in drips like a tap that hasn’t been turned off properly. Other times her Mama fills in the blanks…only she knows those aren’t her memories and it is hard feeling like she is not like everybody else.

But this summer is going to be different for Clara. Everyone is buzzing with excitement over a new girl in the village who is not like other visitors. She is about to make big waves on the island–and give Clara a summer she won’t forget.

My Thoughts

*I received a copy of ‘When Life Gives You Mangos’ through NetGalley and Delacorte Press, in exchange for an honest review*

My heart went out to Clara in ‘When Life Gives You Mangos’! All Clara wants is to repair her complicated friendship with Gaynah. The face that Gaynah isn’t supportive of her memory lapses doesn’t make things easier! Clara has an exciting cast of characters in her island community: a nagging matriarch with a heart of gold, an uncle known for his ‘eccentric past’, and a new girl with fashionable clothes with an eye for Clara’s well being.

The road to Clara’s memory recovery is indeed a struggle, as she comes to grips to the events that led her to that predicament. Her community is very supportive and protective, going to great lengths to keep secrets for the sake of security. It isn’t until a adventurous playdate in the neighborhood that Clara begins to discover there is more to her friendships than what she’s aware of.

I love Clara’s island community, for it has two identities. For many, it’s an exotic place, where tourists visit to admire for days at a time. However, Clara’s island is home. Her island brims with her community’s rich identity. Neighborhoods flow with beautiful trees and vibrant homes, their history dating back centuries. It’s where Clara feels the safety of her family, holding her close when times grow difficult.

This is a middle grade novel, and it does an exceptional job handling the topic of traumatic events to a young audience. The story begins with a storm impacting the community, yet it doesn’t go overboard with graphic details. The takeaway is always a community uniting together in order to support each other. Clara goes through rough patches with her memory loss, yet her community is there to support on of their own.

I would recommend When Life Gives You Mangos for those wanting stories about friendship and recovering from trauma. Such a heartfelt story!


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Until I Find You by Rea Frey | Book Review

Book Review
Until I Find You by Rea Frey
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Until I Find You by Rea Frey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: August 11, 2020

Purple Leaf

Synopsis

2 floors. 55 steps to go up. 40 more to the crib.

Since Rebecca Gray was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, everything in her life consists of numbers. Each day her world grows a little darker and each step becomes a little more dangerous.

Following days of feeling like someone’s watching her, Bec awakes at home to the cries of her son in his nursery. When it’s clear he’s not going to settle, Bec goes to check on him.
She reaches in. Picks him up.
But he’s not her son.
And no one believes her.


One woman’s desperate search for her son . . .

In a world where seeing is believing, Bec must rely on her own conviction and a mother’s instinct to uncover the truth about what happened to her baby and bring him home for good.

My Thoughts

**I received ‘Until I Find You’ through NetGalley and St. Martins Press, in exchange for an honest review**

‘Until I Find You’ follows the story of Rebecca Gray as she fights to recover her son after vanishing without warning.

As a single mother living with a degenerative eye condition, Rebecca already has the odds stacked against her. In addition to her health, Rebecca is also grieving the death of her husband. This makes for a daunting challenge to fight through! We are given a detailed account of everything Rebecca endures as she rebuilds a sustainable life for both herself and Jackson, her son.

Although Rebecca’s diminishing sight threatens to steal Rebecca’s independence, this never stops her from doing everything possible in searching for Jackson. Her story is an uphill climb from start to finish, and it constantly left me wondering what obstacle might roll into her path next!

This is Rea Frey’s third book, in which she writes about the lengths people would take in order to establish safety for their children. ‘Until I Find You’ not only focuses on a mother’s love, but the strong will a mother holds in her heart that deflects challenge. A mother will fight for her children, no matter how many times doubt tries to creep into her soul. This story certainly left a lasting impression in my heart!

I recommend ‘Until I Find You’ for those who enjoy stories with strong characters fighting change, when insurmountable odds are stacked against them. You will enjoy this story!

What are your thoughts about Until i Find You? Would you add this amazing book to your TBR?


Love and Light, Cathleen

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Book Review | ‘Tank’s Forever Home’ by Carol Kim

Tank bull mastiff sleeps with teddy bear on blue couch

Tank’s Forever Home by Carol Kim, Illustrated by Courtney Godbey
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Length: 48 pages
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Release Date: September 1, 2020


Synopsis

Tank is a bullmastiff named for his great size. At least, that was the name Shawn and Kat gave the gentle giant after they found him behind the bookstore. The kids convince their parents to let them foster the stray while animal rescue looks for his owner. Meanwhile, Shawn and Kat try to figure out how such a loving dog could come to be lost. What will happen to Tank if Shawn and Kat can’t help him find his forever home? Doggie Daycare is open for business. Join siblings Shawn (9) and Kat (7) Choi as they start their own pet-sitting service out of their San Francisco home. Every dog they meet has its own special personality sending them on fun (and furry) adventures all over the city!


My Thoughts

*I received ‘Tank’s Forever Home’ through NetGalley and Jolly Fish Press, in exchange for an honest review*

I really needed this adorable book in my life!

Tank’s Forever Home follows siblings Kat and Shawn find a loving home for a bull mastiff. They help out in a Doggy Daycare center in their community, and it takes little time in discovering a safe place for Tank to spend while waiting for a loving owner to enter his life.

This book gave me warm, fuzzy feelings from beginning to end! This story teaches the value of community helpers doing good for animal safety. It also has rich images, providing children with accurate visual cues to accompany the text. This tale also has Reading Comprehension questions at the back, providing more learning opportunities for young children at home.

Whether you are reading Tanks’s Forever Home with your children for enjoyment, or using it as a Community Helpers activity, this book is very valuable for children of all ages!


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Book Review | Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Book Review
Take a HInt, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
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Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Publisher: Avon Books
Length: 361 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback
Release Date: June 23, 2020

Synopsis

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?


My Thoughts

‘Take a Hint, Dani Brown’ is Talia Hibbert’s second book in the Brown Sisters series. We follow Danika’s search for love! Seeking a partner with no strings attached, she finds a kindred connection with Zafir after a rescue that goes viral.

I really enjoyed reading this ‘fake dating’ storyline! Their ‘relationship’ begins according to plan: some public appearances, a few viral ‘couple-esque’ photographs, and Zafir gets his children’s organization promoted. However, things take a dramatic turn when Zafir receives his breakthrough interview. Both characters begin to confide their greatest fears and wants in life. Suddenly, playing fake love interests is no longer that simple with feelings involved!

What I loved the most is the romantic tension, the buildup for these characters to realize there might be more than just lust coming into play. The novel was filled with playful banter and sarcastic remarks, with true compassion at its core. Both characters also endured heavy traumas in their past experiences, and they lean on one another to lift them out of their anxieties.

I love the diverse representation in Hibbert’s novels! There are strong female characters handling chronic illness (Chloe) and extreme insecurities (Dani). Also, Talia Hibbert writes about men who lived through traumas and shares them with trusted support systems. Zafir battles the anxiety left behind after a traumatic life event, yet this motivates him to begin an organization for teenage boys. It’s okay for all people to address anxiety, as everyone handles fear at some point in their life.

I loved everything about Take a Hint, Dani Brown. If you’re searching for a contemporary romance that addresses the value of wonderful support systems, then you will love this story!


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Book Review | The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Publisher: Harper
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: eBook
Release Date: September 24, 2019


Synopsis

“’Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?’ I asked my sister. We were sitting in her car, parked in front of the Dutch House in the broad daylight of early summer.”

Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish mansion. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her wit, her brilliance. Life is coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners in the frames of their oil paintings.

Then one day their father brings Andrea home. Though they cannot know it, her arrival to the Dutch House sows the seed of the defining loss of Danny and Maeve’s lives. The siblings are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own exile is that of their mother’s: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known.

Told with Ann Patchett’s inimitable blend of humour, rage and heartbreak, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale and story of a paradise lost; of the powerful bonds of place and time that magnetize and repel us for our whole lives.


My Thoughts

The Dutch House is a story told through Danny Conroy’s perspective, yet it features the pain of two individuals throughout the decades. The setting begins in a small town in Pennsylvania, as The Dutch House is the only life Danny’s ever known. Danny and his sister Maeve are removed from their home by their stepmother shortly after Danny’s 15th birthday. Although the siblings make attempts to move forward in their lives, they’re always drawn back to their childhood home, constantly reminising on a carefree life interrupted. This frequent pull to the past throws many complications in their personal relationships.

The timelines in The Dutch House constantly jump around, yet this nicely sets up the stage in describing the meager beginnings of Danny’s parents living in New York City. The book nicely shows the progression of a life rich in luxury, only to lose it through mistrust. Through the memories of his sister and lost family friends, Danny slowly pieces his parent’s life together in a complicated puzzle.

This story also highlights Maeve’s difficulties as she lives with Type 1 Diabetes. Living with T1D myself, I could completely identify with Maeve’s feelings of frustration as she manages her blood sugar. It truly is a daily balancing act!

Recommendations

If you love Historical Fiction stories centered around complex sibling bonds, then you will really love The Dutch House!


Are you interesting in reading The Dutch House? Feel free to share in the comments!


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Book Review | The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva

The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva.
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The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva
Publisher: Self Published
Length: 283 pages
Source: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: August 2, 2019


Synopsis

Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no immediate obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead.


My Thoughts

At the start of The Existence of Amy, you immediately know that you’re entering the world of someone enduring a deep struggle. We follow the story of Amy, a young woman suffering from the need to perform numerous routines for the sake of safety. Amy is aware that these tasks interfere with her daily life, hindering any chance of successful social interactions, yet she feels powerless to prevent them. There are several instances in the story where Amy struggles to overpower that internal voice in her head, yet it always wins out in the end, for the sake of safety.

I could feel Amy’s fight to overcome her condition, and her pain, as her negative feelings get the upper hand frequently. Amy’s depression is strong throughout the book, yet there are also valuable friendships there for her when she needs it most. These lifelines are very valuable for Amy, as her constant routines disrupt her daily way of life.

The Existence of Amy handles some intense topics (handling mental illness and extreme depression), but they are very important to stress how powerful Amy’s disorder controls her life. I recommend this book for those seeking to understand the impact of extreme depression.

Many thanks to the author for providing me a complimentary copy of this book!

Recommended for:

  • Readers searching for stories on Mental Health (OCD, Depression)
  • Stories with friends as valuable lifelines during struggle

CW: Depression, suicidal thoughts


Would you put The Existence of Amy in your TBR? Feel free to share in the comments!


Love and Light, Cathleen

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A Journey Toward Hope by Victor Hinojosa & Coert Voorhees | Book Review

'A Journey Toward Hope' by Victor Hinojosa & Coert Voorhees. Illustrated by Susan Guevara
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A Journey Toward Hope by Victor Hinojosa & Coert Voorhees
Illustrated by Susan Guevara
Publisher: Six Foot Press
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Length: 40 pages
Source: eARC
Release Date: July 7, 2020


Synopsis

Every year, roughly 50,000 unaccompanied minors arrive at the US/Mexico border to present themselves for asylum or related visas. The majority of these children are non-Mexicans fleeing the systemic violence of Central America’s “Northern Triangle”: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

A Journey Toward Hope tells the story of Rodrigo, a 14-year-old escaping Honduran violence; Alessandra, a 10-year-old Guatemalan whose first language is Q’eqchi’; and the Salvadoran siblings Laura and Nando. Though their reasons for making the journey are different and the journey northward is perilous, the four children band together, finding strength in one another as they share the dreams of their past and the hopes for their future. Written in collaboration with Baylor University’s’ Social Innovation Collaborative, A Journey Toward Hope is a celebration of their humanity and an ode to the power of hope and connection even in the face of uncertainty and fear.


My Thoughts

A Journey Toward Hope tells the story of four children migrating to North America. They leave everything behind (homes, loved ones) in order to live a more peaceful life. Through harrowing conditions and fear of the unknown, they travel to a life free from violence and danger. These four children rely on each other for emotional support as they embark of their life path. While they don’t know one another, they share in the struggle, and this ultimately unites them. This story is a fictional account, yet Hinojosa and Voorhees provide vivid details of the conditions migrant children experience while making their dangerous journey.

Since immigration is a hot topic in the Americas, A Journey Toward Hope provides many teachable moments. Educators can discuss this tale with students as a way to put faces to the crisis. In many instances, children are making the dangerous trip to peace on their own. As this book is written for children, it sets the stage at an age appropriate level for young students to understand.

A Journey Toward Hope is a wonderful story for children of all ages. I recommend this book for those searching to more information about immigration among families.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What are your thoughts about A Journey Toward Hope? Would you put this story on your TBR?



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Hope Unashamed by Nadine C. Keels | Book Review

'Hope Unashamed' by Nadine C. Keels is written in black text. A man stands in front of a blue background. An analog clock sits in the foreground. 

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Hope Unashamed by Nadine C. Keels
Publisher: Self-Published
Length: 134 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 15, 2017

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My Thoughts

**I received a copy of ‘Hope Unashamed’ by the author, in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Hope Unashamed‘ is the sequel to ‘Love Unfeigned‘. This time, we hear Arthur’s perspective of love, loss, and rebirth. Arthur is focused on his studies, yet his infatuation with Lorraine Tyson sets him on a course to marriage. A relationship between the two begins, yet sadly, Lorraine doesn’t reciprocate Arthur’s feelings. He is devastated, yet Arthur learns a powerful lesson of forgiveness and patience.

I love reading Nadine C. Keels’ stories, since they all share a strong message of friendship and devotion. We learn the backstories of all the characters as they go about high school’s struggles and triumphs. Strong friendships blossom into deeper connections, as shown in both Love Unfeigned and Hope Unashamed. What’s especially meaningful is that romantic scenes in these stories are meaningful and wholesome. A deeper message, centered around a higher power, is valued among all characters in the story, which is very refreshing.

Hope Unashamed is another good story in Nadine C. Keels’s collection. I highly recommend it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis

He’s never been so mesmerized by a girl before. Can’t help getting his hopes up…

Arthur is a studious, “all or nothing” kind of guy with his life planned out. Even before he’s old enough to drive a car, he knows he wants a career in computers. Since he sees no need for romance until he’s ready for marriage, Arthur keeps his focus on his education.

Then, a new school year brings a stunning young lady into Arthur’s path, blindsiding his ideas on romance. As a result, his transition from boyhood to manhood includes the pursuit of the woman he wishes to make his wife. But when his pursuit falls through, Arthur must realize when it’s time to give up the shame of a broken dream—and learn what it truly means to hope for more.


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‘Love Unfeigned’ by Nadine C. Keels/Book Review

Love Unfeigned by Nadine C. Keels
Length: 104 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Independently Published
Release Date: February 27, 2013

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My Thoughts

**I received a copy of Love Unfeigned from the author, in exchange for an honest review**

Love stories hold special meaning when it’s rooted in friendship. ‘Love Unfeigned’ by Nadine C. Keels is a story packed with meaning and heart!

This novella follows the life of Lorraine Tyson. Lorraine is a spunky free spirit, and catches the eye of Isaiah James, her brother’s BFF. Isaiah has a close bond with the Tyson household, even after he moves to another part of town. However, everything changes when miscommunication and rumors fracture Lorraine and Isaiah’s friendship.

“Love Unfeigned’ is told in two timelines; Lorraine’s life throughout her childhood, and in her 20s. We witness Lorraine’s growth as she navigates friendship, experiences love’s joys and sorrows, and reconnects with bonds fractured through time. Love Unfeinged also reminds us of the support of a higher power. Nurturing guidance through friends and family leads to a deeper understanding to peace.

I recommend ‘Love Unfeigned’ for lovers of contemporary romance with a deep message. It was such good novella!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Synopsis

Love to the chords of a classic jazz band, spanned over more than a decade…

Lorraine: plucky and competitive.
Isaiah: impish, with a smile that gleams in more ways than one.
From the time the two first square off for a wall ball battle as children, Lorraine and Isaiah can’t help knowing each other. But neither can they avoid passions and misfortunes lining their path to young adulthood. After Isaiah’s family breakup disrupts the haven he’s shared with Lorraine, their relationship is threatened by jealousy, abandonment, and a life-altering trauma too grave to…forget.


As one year follows another, what might it take to reunite this divided man and woman in love: a love unbounded by time?

“Everything didn’t have to turn out perfect. I just wanted you there.”


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Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi | Review & Mood Board

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Length: 400 pages
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: September 3, 2019

My Thoughts

‘Permanent Record’ tells the story of Pablo, a store clerk struggling to find direction in his life after dropping out of NYU. During one of his late night shifts, he connects with a young woman who turns out to be Leanna Smart, a superstar. The two get wrapped up in a relationship, and Pablo becomes swept up in Leanna’s glamorous life, while avoiding to confront his own emotional and financial struggles.

Every time I read a story set in New York City, It instantly brings back memories to my residency from 2007-2014. New York is where I realized what I wanted to do with my life, and I found the community that guided my growth in education and creative writing. While Pablo has a close friends/family circle, his avoidance of his financial situation causes him to alienate them. It takes a while for Pablo to figure out that he doesn’t need to travel across the country to figure out the answers to his life journey.

I recommend Permanent Record for people searching for stories with diverse characters trying to figure out their place in life. I’m so thankful that I finally made time to read this book!

Rating: 4/5 Stars


Mood Board

I discovered a few pictures that reflects my thoughts on Permanent Record, and I wanted to feature them here. I found these images on Pexels and Pixabay.


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